Swimming, Day 1: Sun (CHN) and Ledecky (USA) revalidate their 400m world crown

Kazan 2015 - SW

In a first day of four finals at the 16th FINA World Championships in Kazan (RUS), the best performance appeared in a semi-final, when Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) qualified first for the decisive race in a World Record of 55.74 in the women’s 100m butterfly. The Swedish star improved the previous best global mark from Dana Vollmer (USA), who had raced for gold at the London 2012 Olympics in a time of 55.98. In terms of performances, this was the highlight of the inaugural day in the capital of Tatarstan, but many other intense moments marked the finals’ session.

In the men’s 400m free, Chinese star Sun Yang found no major difficulties in revalidating his world title, touching home in 3:42.58. He was challenged by silver medallist James Guy (GBR) until the 300m-mark, but Sun’s final lap was sufficient to secure gold.

Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Starting very strong, Katie Ledecky (USA) was in a good pace to break her own World Record in the women’s 400m free, but some final fatigue dictated a comfortable win in “only” a Championship Record of 3:59.13. The only woman under four minutes, the US champion (winner in 2013) had also been the fastest of the preliminaries, giving the idea that the WR (which she holds at 3:58.37) could be a tangible target in the decisive race.

In the last two finals of the day – the 4x100m free relays – the women’s race consecrated the team of Australia, whose quartet got the gold in a new Championship Record of 3:31.48. The minor medals went to Netherlands (silver) and USA (bronze, but winners in 2013). This US result was nothing compared to the “earthquake” in the men’s race – in the morning preliminaries, and for the first time in the history of the FINA World Championships, the North Americans finished 11th, missing the final and a possible 15th medal in this event. In the evening, US main rivals over the last years, the team of France, took full benefit of the situation (by the way, Germany and Australia also missed the final), revalidating their 2013 title in 3:10.74. Despite being loudly supported by their crowd, Russia had to content with silver, while Italy earned the bronze.

Katinka Hosszu (HUN) - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

In other highlights of the day, Katinka Hosszu (HUN) was the fastest in the semis of the women’s 200m individual medley, setting a new European record of 2:06.84 – in the morning, Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) was a surprising 25th ranked swimmer in the preliminaries of this event. In the men’s 50m butterfly, Florent Manaudou (FRA) will swim in lane 4 in the final, after a 22.84 effort in the semis – the 2013 champion in Barcelona, Brazil’s Cesar Cielo got a “shaky” qualification, ranking eighth of the semis in 23.29, while the WR holder, Spain’s Rafael Munoz was only 12th, slightly better than Chad Le Clos (RSA), 14th of the semi-finals. In the men’s 100m breaststroke, three Championships Records were set during the day: in the morning, Adam Peaty (GBR) had clocked 58.52; in the first semi-final, Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) improved it to 58.49; and, finally, in the second semi, Peaty bettered it once more, qualifying the first for the final in 58.18 – the Brit will certainly “attack” his own WR of 57.92, set last April.