By Dr. Phillip Whitten//Contributor | Friday, July 26, 2019
Editor’s Note: Phil Whitten, a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and former editor of Swimming World Magazine offers his insight into the Americans’ performance during the first four days of the 18th FINA World Championships.
The powerhouse U.S. National Team wasted little time in getting down to business at the 2019 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. Many – perhaps most – of the competitors in Gwangju are planning to be in Tokyo a year from now, and typically, they are back in heavy training already. Others, no doubt, are working to incorporate what they learned these past several weeks into their training regimens.
Most of the races in Korea this summer have been very close and most were fast as well. Still, there were some shocking upsets. For instance, who would have imagined that an 18-year-old upstart named Ariarne Titmus would come storming from behind to defeat Queen Ledecky in the 400 free?
So what did we learn? Only that Ledecky really is human. Just like the rest of us.
There were big question marks about two very fast sprinters as well: Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian.
Dressel had other-wordly performances at the 2017 NCAAs and FINA World Championships, winning seven gold medals, but faltered a little last year. Which Caeleb Dressel would we see in Gwangju?
And for Nathan Adrian, good news. The testicular cancer he was diagnosed with earlier this year is in remission.
Caeleb is off to a great start, winning the 50 fly in 22.35 seconds, an American record and the second-fastest time ever swum. He led off the 4x100 freestyle relay, his split 47.63. Caleb had another great swim in the mixed 4x100 medley relay clocking in at 46.73.
Adrian’s goal: to make a relay team in Tokyo. My bet is he will surpass this modest goal. He has only been training four months and he uncorked a blazing 47.08 split in the 4x100 freestyle relay.
There were other outstanding American swims at Gwangju in the first four days. Among them were:
- Kathleen Baker, who battled pneumonia this summer, qualified first in the 50 back with a time of 27.62.
- Lilly King won the 100 breaststroke. The has now beaten Efimova at all three of their last meetings at major international competitions.
- Americans, Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot qualified first and second in the women’s 200 fly semi-finals, with times of 2:06:25 and 2:06:59.