Swimming, Day 6: The tale of two sisters and five medals

Kazan 2015 - SW

Two sisters in the same podium, three bronze medals in one event, one thrilling swim-off, some surprises and a new Championships record were the highlights of the sixth day of the swimming competition at the 16th FINA World Championships in Kazan (RUS). In this juicy session, Australia got two gold medals, Marco Koch gave the first swimming title here in Russia for Germany (defeating three-time world champion Daniel Gyurta), while Great Britain continued its golden saga and Japan got a second success in women’s events.   

Australia started the day very strong, with the Campbell sisters (Bronte and Cate) dominating the women’s 100m free and placing first and third respectively. Cate, 23 years old, was the defending world champion from Barcelona 2013 and had swum faster than her sibling in the semis (52.84 against 53.00 for Bronte), but things were slightly different in the final, with Bronte touching home in 52.52. Cate was third in 52.82, while Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), as two years ago in the Catalonian capital, got the silver in 52.70. The Swedish champion was already the winner of the 100m butterfly in Kazan and assured her fifth podium position at the Worlds.

The Campbell’s success represent the first time in the FINA World Championships’ history that two siblings are on the same podium at swimming events. The complicity of the two sisters in the water and during the award ceremony was touching and will certainly remain as one of the strongest images of these World Championships.

Cate and Bronte Campbell (AUS): sisters in life and in the podium - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

The Netherlands were also represented in this final, but after two consecutive bronze medals (in 2011 and 2013), Ranomi Kromowidjojo was this time fourth in 53.17. Femke Heemskerk concluded in fifth (53.58), while Missy Franklin (USA) was seventh (54.00) in the decisive race.

In the men’s 200m backstroke, Australia’s Mitchell Larkin confirmed his 100m victory, by getting again the gold in 1:53.58. Larkin, 22 years old, had been finalist in this event at the 2012 Olympics (where he finished 8th) and becomes after Kazan the man to beat at next year’s edition of the Games in Rio de Janeiro (BRA). The Australian’s win also closed the US supremacy in this event since 1998, when Lenny Krayazelburg first won in Perth (AUS), and was followed by Aaron Peirsol (2001, 2003, 2005 and 2009) and by Ryan Lochte (2007, 2011 and 2013). Moreover, from 2005 to 2013, the USA not only triumphed on all occasions, but was able to put another of its swimmers on the podium.

In Kazan, both US representatives were far from the medallists, with Ryan Murphy and Tyler Clary (bronze medallist in 2011 and 2013) finishing in fifth and seventh, respectively. The minor awards went therefore to Radoslaw Kawecki (POL, silver in 1:54.55), also second in Barcelona 2013, and to Russia’s Evgeny Rylov, who at 18 got his first international success at this level.

In the second women’s final of the day, the 200m breaststroke, another première in the FINA World Championships’ history: three swimmers touched with the exactly same time (2:22.76) for the bronze medal! With local hero Yulia Efimova (2013 world champion) not qualified for the decisive race, the victory came to Japan’s Kanako Watanabe in 2:21.15, the first title for the Asian swimmer after the silver medal in Kazan already in the 200m IM. Aged 18, Watanabe had triumphed in the same event at the 2014 Asian Games and was the best performer of the season. It was Japan’s first win in this event at the Worlds.

Kanako Watanabe (JPN) - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

The silver went to US Micah Lawrence, bronze medallist two years ago, while the bronze was incredibly shared by three swimmers – Jessica Val (ESP), Rikke Pedersen (DEN) and Shi Jinglin (CHN). This also meant that for the first time in the history of FINA’s main event, the majority (five) of the swimmers in the final got a medal! If for Val and Shi these are first successes at this level, Pedersen was second in 2013 at the Barcelona edition of these Championships.

In the men’s 200m breaststroke, everyone expected an intense fight for the gold between Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN), the fastest qualifier and best performer of the season, and Daniel Gyurta, the 2012 Olympic champion and 2009, 2011 and 2013 gold medallist. In the end, none of them got the world title in Kazan – that honour was achieved by Germany’s Marco Koch, stopping the clock at 2:07.76. The German champion was silver medallist two years ago in Barcelona, and got the first swimming gold for his country in Kazan; moreover, in history, he is only the third German swimmer to have triumphed in breaststroke events, after Walter Kusch in the 100m in 1978 and Mark Warnecke in the 50m in 2005.

Also unexpectedly, the silver went to US Kevin Cordes (2:08.05), whose only success so far had been the bronze medal in the Kazan Arena in the 50m breaststroke. Despite a final effort, Gyurta had to content with the third position, in a time of 2:08.10, distant from his personal best of 2:07.23. Koseki failed the podium, finishing in fifth (2:09.12).

In the last final of the day, Great Britain confirmed its excellent moment here in Kazan, denying a sixth consecutive title for USA in the men’s 4x200m free relay. The North Americans seemed to have the things under control until the 600m-mark, but an inspired James Guy (winner of the 200m free at these Championships) swam the British last leg in 1:44.74 to get the gold in a final time of 7:04.33. The USA earned (a disappointing) silver in 7:04.75 (with Ryan Lochte earning his 25th medal at the Worlds), while Australia goes home with the bronze (7:05.34). Despite not having swum the final, Grant Hackett contested the heats of the event for his country, and conquered therefore his 19th medal at the FINA World Championships.

The winning quartet of Great Britain - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

In another relevant action in the evening's session, Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) qualified first for the final of the women’s 50m butterfly, in a new Championships Record of 25.06, bettering the time (25.07) achieved by her teammate Therese Alshammar in Rome 2009. At the very end of the day, the vibrant crowd at the Kazan Arena screamed very loud to support their local hero Vladimir Morozov in a thrilling swim-off with Anthony Ervin (USA) for the eighth place in the final of the men’s 50m free. The two men had tied in 22.02 in the semis, but in the direct duel, Morozov was slightly better, finishing in 21.90, while Ervin clocked 21.98. It was the end of a day with many interesting facts and historical moments.  


Bronte Campbell (AUS, gold, women’s 100m free):
“I can't believe that, I think it is still sinking in. I couldn't believe it when I turned round and I saw one next to my name and saw the time as well. I couldn't be happier with that. That is everyone's dream: that is why you train, you want to be the best you can be. And today I happened to be the best in the world and that sounds really strange coming out of my mouth, truly surreal, it hasn't sunk in yet”.

Mitchell Larkin (AUS, gold, men’s 200m backstroke): “All races are difficult, this was another one, but it was fantastic. I knew it was going to be a close race so I had to put everything on the line, and I just touched first, which is awesome”.

Radoslaw Kawecki (POL, silver, men’s 200m backstroke): “On one hand I'm satisfied with the medal, on the other hand I'm a bit disappointed as I changed my plan for the finals. In the semis, I went out fast, now I had a slower start and that was a mistake”.

Evgeny Rylov (RUS, bronze, men’s 200m backstroke):
“Though I never had a medal before I don't consider myself a hero. I've never targeted the podium, just wanted to clock the best time. Today I made it, and it was enough to have a medal, and this is great”.

Kanako Watanabe (JPN, gold, women’s 200m breaststroke): “I'm very happy and satisfied, I can't believe it, my strategy was to save energy during the first hundred, then I had a strong last lap”.

Jessica Vall (ESP, bronze, women’s 200m breaststroke):
“I have no words, it's absolutely unbelievable!”

Marco Koch (GER, gold, men’s 200m breaststroke):
“When I looked at the scoreboard and recognised the time I thought it's not that good... Then I noticed that I am the world champion which is amazing. In fact, at the last turn four or five of us made one line and thought it might not be the best for me but at the end it turned out the other way. I'm really happy and now being the world champion I will go to the Burger King at last!”

Daniel Gyurta (HUN, bronze, men’s 200m breaststroke):
“This was not a defeat, this was my failure to deliver my personal best. If I can clock it again I would have won the race but it didn't happen. I think I went out too fast and that took its toll, I couldn't produce my powerful finish. But this is not the end of the world, now I have even bigger motivation for Rio and try to grab back the title I won three times before in 2017 in my home town, Budapest”.

James Guy (GBR, gold, men’s 4x200m free relay): “When I walked out on the first day for the final of 400m and heard the crowd roaring, something switched in me. This is the place, this is the environment everyone wants to race in, and today it was the same. It was a great feeling, a great atmosphere and a great win”.