Swimming, Day 4: Peaty (GBR) and Ledecky (USA) continue to shine in Kazan

Kazan 2015 - SW

Three more World Records in the newest event of the programme (Mixed 4x100m medley relay) and two gold medals for the British talent Adam Peaty marked the fourth day of the swimming competition at the 16th FINA World Championships in the Kazan Arena. After winning the 100m breaststroke, Peaty is also the new world champion in the 50m and largely contributed to the victory of his team in the mixed event. He is decisively helping his country to have the most successful World Championships ever. The other finals of the day provided intense moments, with Laszlo Cseh (HUN) returning to winning mode 10 years after his first title, Katie Ledecky (USA) winning her third gold in Kazan, and Sun Yang (CHN) proving his supremacy in the freestyle events.

The women’s 200m free was a thrilling race, with a notable field on the starting blocks: Federica Pellegrini (ITA, completing her 27th birthday today), Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky, from USA, Katinka Hosszu (HUN) and Femke Heemskerk (NED). During the first 150m, the leader of the race was the Dutch star, swimming in Lane 1, but Ledecky, on the other side of the pool (on Lane 7) was perfectly controlling her effort and applied her “turbo” in the last 50m, to get the gold in 1:55.16.

Already winner of the 400m and 1500m free here in Kazan, the 18-year-old champion earned her seventh gold at the Worlds, and is definitively the woman to beat at the 2016 Olympic Games in the 200m, 400m and 800m free. Pellegrini, the WR holder in this event, since her 1:52.98 effort from Rome 2009, got the silver in 1:55.32 and repeated her 2013 performance in Barcelona. For the Italian diva, this is her eighth medal in this competition, but, most importantly, she is the first swimmer to win six medals in an individual event in six different World Championship editions.
Missy Franklin, the winner in 2013, got the bronze, stopping the clock at 1:55.49. It is her 13th medal at Worlds and in Kazan it’s her second third place, after helping her country in the 4x100m free relay.

Katie Ledecky ©Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

In the men’s 50m breaststroke, the duel between Adam Peaty (GBR) and Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) was expected to generate a new World Record in the event, after successive best global marks had been set in the preliminaries and semi-finals. In the end of the decisive race, Peaty confirmed his favouritism and touched home in 26.51, just 0.09 slower than his best time from the semis. Peaty became the first male swimmer in the history of the World Championships to have won the 50m and 100m breaststroke in the same edition of the competition. Moreover, his three titles (he would later win the mixed relay), plus the win of his compatriot James Guy in the men’s 200m free give, for the moment, an unprecedented four gold medals for Great Britain at a single World Championships.

Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) got the silver in 26.66, but also registered another milestone for his country: he becomes the first swimmer from South Africa (male or female) to claim a record fifth medal in an specific event at the World Championships, after earning gold in 2013 and 2009, and bronze in 2007 and 2011. The last athlete on the podium was US Kevin Cordes (26.86), his first achievement at this level. 

In a titanic fight between Chad Le Clos (RSA) and Laszlo Cseh (HUN), the Magyar was the fastest in the men’s 200m butterfly, touching home in 1:53.48 and defeating the 2012 Olympic winner and also the 2013 world champion. Cseh, who is completing 30 in December, won his 11th medal at the World Championships, being the best of his country in this competition. In Kazan, he got the second gold of his prestigious collection, exactly 10 years and five days after his first world title, in the 400m IM in Montreal 2015.

The South African started very fast, leading at the 100m-mark, but Cseh applied his fast return and won his second medal in Kazan, after the bronze in the 50m butterfly. Le Clos, the “FINA Athlete of the Year” in 2014, had been the winner of the 100m and 200m butterfly in Barcelona 2013, but was only sixth in the final of the 200m free here in Kazan. The bronze went to Jan Switkowski, in 1:54.10, the first success at this level for the 21-year-old Polish swimmer.

Sun Yang (CHN), the most successful swimmer of the men’s 800m free final, confirmed his good shape in Kazan and his second gold and third medal of the Championships, touching first in 7:39.96, the only sub 7:40 performance of the final. Sun was also world champion in the 400m free and got silver in the 200m, now accumulating 12 awards at FINA’s major event. The Chinese champion is 24, but was one of the “veterans” of this final, with three swimmers under 20. At 20, Gregorio Paltrinieri, from Italy, was his main contender throughout the race, but the Italian, bronze medallist in the 1500m free two years ago in Barcelona (ESP) and European champion in 2012, ended up getting the silver in 7:40.81. The podium was completed by the Commonwealth Games 2014 second best in the 1500m free, Australia’s Mack Horton.

SUN Yang ©Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

In the last final of the day, the first-ever mixed 4x100m medley relay, the team of Great Britain got the gold medal in a new world record of 3:41.71, bettering the previous best, set twice in the heats – first by Russia in 3:45.87 and then by USA in 3:42.33. These three new best global marks raise the total of WR so far here in Kazan to 10. With this success, Adam Peaty, part of the team in the breaststroke leg, becomes the second swimmer in the capital of Tatarstan with three gold medals (together with Ledecky). The British quartet started with two men (Chris Walker-Hebborn in backstroke, and then Peaty), concluding its victorious race with Siobhan O’Connor in butterfly and Fran Halsall in the free section of the relay.

Team GBR ©Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

This was the general strategy used by the favourite squads, and it paid off for all the remaining medallist teams, with USA getting the silver in 3:43.27 and Germany earning bronze in 3:44.13. The crowd at Kazan Arena naturally cheered for their team, but a totally different strategy (two women first and then two men) may have dictated the fifth place for the home team (who included stars such as Yulia Efimova for breaststroke and Vladimir Morozov for free). The Russian sprinter had a complicated evening, as he was the main surprise of semi-final action, when he departed a bit too early in the semis of the men’s 100m free and was disqualified.


Cameron van der Burgh (RSA, silver, men’s 50m breaststroke):
“Wonderful to get a medal! If I remember right, this is the fifth time I am podium in this event and that shows my consistency”.

Kevin Cordes (USA, bronze, men’s 50m breaststroke): “I'm at the first time in the World Champs, this is so exciting for me and to have a medal it's awesome!”

Laszlo Cseh (HUN, gold, men’s 200m butterfly): "Back in January I didn't think that the 200m fly would be the event I make it again. I wanted to have a last shot to return to the top, I changed coach and training methods and it paid off. Today, the last 20m were really tough, didn't feel my arms but I told myself this one I wouldn't let go. I almost cried afterwards but managed to hold it back. I'm strong, you know!”

Chad Le Clos (RSA, silver, men’s 200m butterfly):
"I'm very happy with the second place, I tried my best but Laszlo is a great champ and he has a great season, so what happened here is OK for me".

Jan Switkowski (POL, bronze, men’s 200m butterfly): “It was absolutely surprising for me to get a medal. Place one and two were out of reach, and I had a slow start but finished like a dynamite!”

Katie Ledecky (USA, gold, women’s 200m free):
“It was a very tough race but I had confidence. They asked me about the 1500m, and I can tell you that I'm not really training for the 1500m and it works”.

Federica Pellegrini (ITA, silver, women’s 200m free):
“Today is my 27th birthday so I'm very happy, I had never got a medal on my birthday. This is the 6th time at the World Championships that I'm on the podium in the 200m free, I'm also happy about my time because I had a lot of problems in my season and it's very important for me to be still among the best ones”.

Sun Yang (CHN, gold, men’s 800m free):
“First of all I'm happy with this gold, third time in a row in this event, it's not easy to achieve this. I would thank my young rivals, especially Gregorio (Paltrinieri) for pushing hard, it resulted a great race. I'd like to thank my family and friends for standing behind me and giving every help”.