GWANGJU, South Korea – Day 1 of the 18th FINA World Championships had its ups and downs for the United States.
The highlights included four medals – one gold, two silver and a bronze.
The men’s 400m free relay won the lone gold of the night, the team of Caeleb Dressel, Blake Pieroni, Zach Apple and Nathan Adrian setting a meet record in 3:09.06. And while the U.S. finished second in the women’s 400m free relay, no group of four American women have ever swum faster. Mallory Comerford, Abbey Weitzel, Kelsi Dahlia and Simone Manuel turned in a time of 3:31.02.
Katie Ledecky and Leah Smith took silver and bronze in the women’s 400m freestyle. Yes, it was an uncharacteristic second-place finish for Ledecky, but she has three individual events left this week, and as she said in her own words, “I have a lot of racing ahead of me, so I’ve got to move on.”
And then there was the American and meet record by Dressel in the semifinals of the 50m fly.
Definitely a few things to celebrate, and a few challenges to respond to.
Day 2 begins today, and Ledecky will get her chance to refocus with prelims of the women’s 1500m freestyle. Prelims will also be contested in the women’s 100m backstroke, men’s 100m backstroke, women’s 100m breaststroke and men’s 200m freestyle.
The top eight swimmers in the women’s 1500m free will advance to swim in tomorrow night’s finals. The top 16 swimmers from all the other events in this morning’s prelims will advance to swim in tonight’s semifinals.
Here’s a look at how the American swimmers fared in this morning’s prelims, and also a sneak peak at what to expect in tonight’s finals:
Women’s 100m Backstroke
Top Seed: Kylie Masse, Canada, 58.91
Americans: Kathleen Baker, 4th, 59.31; Olivia Smoliga, 5th, 59.55
Both Kathleen Baker and Olivia Smoliga advanced to tonight’s semifinals. Baker won silver in this event at the 2016 Olympic Games and 2017 World Championships. She holds the world record in 58.00, which she set at last year’s Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine. Smoliga was sixth in this event at the 2016 Olympics and fourth at the 2017 World Championship.
Missy Franklin was the last American to win gold in the women’s 100m back at Worlds in 2013.
Men’s 100m Backstroke
Top Seed: Xu Jiayu, China, 52.85
Americans: Matt Grevers, 4th, 53.22; Ryan Murphy, 9th, 53.69
Veteran Matt Grevers, who at 34 is the oldest member of the U.S. team, is the top American qualifier for tonight’s semifinals. He has won a medal in this event at every World Championships since 2013, including the last American gold in 2013, a bronze in 2015 and a silver in 2017. He was also the Olympic champ in the 100m back at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Ryan Murphy, the reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder (51.85), won bronze in this event at the 2017 World Championships.
Women’s 100m Breaststroke
Top Qualifier: Lilly King, USA, 1:06.31
Americans: Micah Sumrall, 16th, 1:07.81
Lilly King is the reigning world and Olympic champion in this event, and the world record-holder. She might be best known for her ongoing rivalry with Yuliya Efimova of Russia. King has come out on top of that rivalry at their last two meetings – one at the Olympic Games in Rio and one at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest. Micah Sumrall is swimming the 100m breast for the first time at a World Championships. She won a bronze in the 200m breast at Worlds in 2013, and a silver in the 200m breast in 2015.
Men’s 200m Freestyle
Top Qualifier: James Guy, Great Britain, 1:46.18
Americans: Andrew Seliskar, 12th, 1:46.74; Townley Haas, 13th, 1:46.85
Andrew Seliskar was the silver medalist in the 200m freestyle at last year’s Pan Pacific Championships. He is competing in his first World Championships. Townley Haas took silver in this event at the 2017 World Championships, and won gold ahead of Seliskar at last year’s Pan Pacs.
The last American to win gold in the men’s 200m free at Worlds was Ryan Lochte in 2011.
Women’s 1500m Freestyle
Top Qualifier: Katie Ledecky, USA, 15:48.90
Americans: Ashley Twichell, 5th, 15:56.22
Katie Ledecky has won this event at every World Championships since 2013. She is the world record-holder and holds nine of the top-10 performances of all time in the 1500. Ashley Twichell, the fifth seed, qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team last week, finishing sixth in the 10k at the open water portion of the competition. Now a veteran of four World Championships, this is the first time she is competing in both open water and pool.
Men’s 100m Breaststroke.
Andrew Wilson is the lone American qualifier for the finals of the men’s 100m breaststroke. Wilson is competing in his first World Championships but has some experience on the international stage. He tied for gold in the 100m breaststroke at the 2017 World University Games and finished eighth in the 100 breast at the 2018 Short Course World Championships.
The top seed in this event, Adam Peaty of Great Britain, set the world record in last night’s semifinals in 56.88.
Brendan Hansen was the last American to win gold in the 100m breast at Worlds in 2007. Kevin Cordes is the only American to win a medal in this event since then, a silver in 2015.
Women’s 100m Butterfly
Kelsi Dahlia qualified seventh for the finals of the women’s 100m butterfly and is the only American swimming this event. Competing at her second World Championships, Dahlia won bronze in the 100m butterfly at Worlds in 2017. The top seed for tonight’s finals is Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden in 56.29.
The last time an American won gold in this event at Worlds was Dana Vollmer in 2011.
Men’s 50m Butterfly
Caeleb Dressel is the top seed after breaking the American and World Championship meet record in the 50m fly in last night’s semifinals in 22.57. Teammate Michael Andrew will also be competing tonight as the 5th seed. Andrew is competing in his first long course World Championships.
The U.S. has never won a gold medal in the men’s 50m fly at Worlds. Eugene Godsoe won silver in 2013.
Women’s 200m IM
Melanie Margalis qualified third for the finals of the women’s 200m IM. A three-time World Championships veteran, she will be looking for her first individual medal in this event. The top seed is Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, who has won the last three World Championship titles in the 200m IM.
The last time an American won gold in this event at Worlds was Ariana Kukors in 2009. The last time the U.S. medaled was a bronze from Madisyn Cox in 2017.