By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Sunday, July 28, 2019
GWANGJU, South Korea – What started off as a slow meet for the United States turned into an avalanche of gold medals and records in the last half of the competition at the 18th FINA World Championships.
The U.S. won just eight medals in the first four days of competition, including three gold, three silver and two bronze. As the meet wrapped up Sunday in Gwangju, that tally had grown to 27 medals overall in the pool – 14 gold, eight silver and five bronze.
Add to that the three medals the Americans won at the open water competition, and the U.S. returns from South Korea with 30 medals –14 gold, nine silver and seven bronze. The U.S. won the FINA trophy as the top team for its efforts. The Americans also boasted the top male swimmer of the meet, Caeleb Dressel, who won six golds and two silver here in Gwangju.
“It was a very tough week,” Dressel said. “I knew I was going to have to come with fire and passion and pride in every single race. As a team, this is kind of a weird year because we don’t have a trials leading up to this meet. We are lightyears ahead of where we were in 2015, and we had a great meet in Rio, so if this is where we’re at heading into Tokyo, I think we’ll be very dangerous next year.”
The U.S. capped the meet by winning gold and shattering the world record by more than a second in the women’s 400m medley relay, the team of Regan Smith, Lilly King, Kelsi Dahlia and Simone Manuel turning in a time of 3:50.40. The former mark, set by the U.S. at the 2017 World Championships, stood at 3:51.55.
Smith led off by setting a world record in the women’s 100m backstroke in 57.57. Overall, Smith set three world records in just two races this week.In addition to the two she broke tonight, she also set the mark in the semifinals of the 200m backstroke.
“After what I did in the 200 back, I was feeling really confident and really excited, and I had a really good feeling going in,” Smith said. “I was super, super happy when I finished.”
From there, the rest of the team cruised to the finish. Australia finished three seconds behind for silver in 3:53.41, while Canada took bronze in 3:53.58.
“When I touched the wall, I didn’t know we broke the world record,” Manuel said. “I really didn’t hear anything. I turned around, and I had to squint (at the scoreboard). To start it off with a world record from Regan really pumped us all up. We definitely wanted to finish off the meet on a good note. I think we’re really happy with that swim.”
The U.S. won three gold and two silver medals Friday.
Manuel collected what was, at the time, her third gold medal of the meet, and swept the sprint freestyle events by winning gold in the women’s 50m free in24.05. She just missed the American record she set in winning bronze at the 2017 World Championships by eight-hundredths of a second.
Manuel became the first American to win the women’s 50m free at Worlds since Amy Van Dyken in 1998. She is the only American woman to win both the 50 and 100 free at Worlds. Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden was second in 24.07, followed by Cate Camble in third in 24.11.
Manuel won gold in her last four races and finished the meet with seven medals overall – four gold and three silver. It was a great finish to what started out as a frustrating meet for her. In the first half of the competition, she was out-touched in the women’s 400m free relay and in the mixed 400m free relay.
She turned it all around with her gold and American record in the 100m free on Friday.
“I definitely talked about it a couple of times – I wasn’t happy with my split on the mixed medley, but if I’m being completely honest, it takes four people to make a relay, and overall, I don’t think we really performed our best,” Manuel said. “I think all of us had to regroup after that relay and put our best foot forward, not just for ourselves but also, more importantly, for Team USA.”
King successfully defended her World Championship title in the women’s 50m breaststroke in 29.84. Benedetta Pilato of Italy won silver in 30.00, while Yuliya Efimova took bronze in 30.15. In addition to her two races tonight, King took gold in the women’s 100m breast and silver in the mixed 400m medley relay.
The U.S. men’s 400m medley relay did not have the same luck as the women, coming away with silver behind Great Britain. Ryan Murphy, Andrew Wilson, Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian touched in 3:28.45, 35-hundredths of a second behind the Brits. Russia was third in 3:28.81.
The Americans trailed in fourth place after the breaststroke leg, but a split of 49.28 by Dressel in the butterfly leg propelled them to the front. In the end, veteran Nathan Adrian couldn’t hold off Great Britain’s Duncan Scott, who swam the second-fastest 100m freestyle split of all time in 46.14.
Afterward, the team was disappointed.
“I kind of put us in the hole from the beginning,” Murphy said. “Andrew did well, Caeleb did well, and Nathan did really well, we just didn’t put him in the right spot. That’s not the position we need to be in, and I need to be better to get us out in the lead so that doesn’t happen at the Olympics.”
In other races, Jay Litherland won his first medal at a major international competition, taking silver in the men’s 400m IM in 4:09.22. Litherland trailed Daiya Seto of Japan by about a body length at the end of the breaststroke leg, but poured it on in the final 100 meters. The race went neck-and-neck to the wall, with Seto edging Litherland in 4:08.95. Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand was third in 4:12.07. Litherland was fifth in this event at both the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 World Championships.
Murphy and teammate Michael Andrew missed out on medals by just a few hundredths of a second in the men’s 50m back, finishing fourth and fifth in 24.53 and 24.58. Zane Waddell of South Africa was first in 24.43, followed by Evgeny Rylov of Russia in 24.49 and Kliment Kolesnikov of Russia in 24.51. Andrew finaled in each of the four 50-meter races at this meet.
Competing in her first World Championship final, Ally McHugh of the U.S. finished 6th in the women’s 400m IM in 4:38.34. Katinka Hosszu of Hungary won her fifth World Championship in this event in 4:30.39. Yi Shiwen won silver in 4:32.07, followed by Yui Ohashi of Japan for bronze in 4:32.33.
No Americans swam in the final of the men’s 1500m free. Florian Wellbrock of Germany raced Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine and Gergorio Paltrinieri down to the wire for gold in 14:36.54. Romannchuk was second in 14:37.63 and Paltrinieri was third in 14:38.75.