Report – Swimming & Water Polo – FINA World Championships Update

Just a few of the headlines from the FINA World Championships that are currently underway in Budapest.

Pellegrini stuns Ledecky in 200m Freestyle

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Federica Pellegrini (picture courtesy of Lis í Jákupsstovu)

Federica Pellegrini, who has won medals in the 200m Freestyle at every World Championships since 2005, made it an unlucky 13th world championship final for Katie Ledecky, the defending world and reigning Olympic champion in this event. Ledecky has won her first 12 world championship finals, but after battling Australia’s Emma McKeon in the middle lanes, was unable to cope with Pellegrini’s surge from the outside. Thankfully for Ledecky, she can console herself with her gold medals from the 400m Freestyle, 1500m Freestyle and 4x200m Freestyle relay earlier in the meet. After the event, Pellegrini announced that this would be her final appearance in the 200m Freestyle: “I was only fourth at the Olympic Games last year, so this is a great success for me. I was thinking of the medal but I never thought it would be gold! What a nice gift for the last 200m freestyle of my life.”

Hosszú brings the house down with 200m IM victory

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Katinka Hosszú of Hungary (picture courtesy of Doha Stadium Plus Qatar)

Hungary has long since been associated with enthusiasm for winter sports, and a number of swimming legends have hailed from these shores. One of the biggest names of the current generation is Katinka Hosszú, and the ‘Iron Lady’ did not disappoint the home crowd on Day 2 in the pool, storming to victory in the 200m Individual Medley, and in the process becoming the first swimmer in history to win the event three times. On the electric atmosphere that greeted her victory, Hosszú said: “I am feeling the same way that the very time I won a race. I have been training in this pool since it opened, trying to imagine the crowd. You can’t be ready for such an amazing atmosphere. It is crazy!”

Kylie Masse is first Canadian female world champion

After 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak won a stunning 100m Freestyle gold medal at the Rio Olympics last year, Canadian swimming seemed to be on an upwards trajectory. While it was Oleksiak who grabbed most of the headlines at that time, Kylie Masse was also impressing by winning a bronze medal in the 100m Backstroke. In the 12 months since then, Masse has continued her improvement, and was delighted to become the first Canadian woman to win a world title earlier this week, breaking the world record in the process.

Sjöström shows class over 100m in both Butterfly and Freestyle

Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström gave us a spectacular opening to the World Championships, when she broke the 100m Freestyle world record on the opening leg of the 4x100m Freestyle relay, finishing in 51.71. While the rest of the Swedish relay team weren’t able to provide a medal to go with the record, Sjöström made no mistake in her first individual event of the meet, winning gold in the 100m Butterfly to make it four world championships in a row that she has won the event.

USA and Spain will do battle for water polo gold

This week saw the water polo competition reach the knockout stage, with a number of exceptional performances from unexpected sources. Canada overcame hosts Hungary 6-4 in the quarter-finals, thanks to a five-goal performance from Monika Eggens, but then lost out to an impressive Spanish side in the semi-finals. Spain had overcome Greece in a penalty shoot-out in their quarter-final after drawing 10-10 in normal time. In the other quarter-finals Russia upset Olympic silver-medallists Italy 9-8, and the USA defeated Australia 7-5, with the US team then going on to win comfortably 14-9 in the semi-final. With three of four Group Stage winners losing in the quarter-finals, there is a question mark over the merits of the four-day break in competition for those teams, although the benefit of that extra rest for the US team may become apparent in the final against Spain on Saturday.

What about Adam Peaty?!

Finally, and I know it’s supposed to be a blog about women’s sport, but as a Brit I have to say “WOW!” about the performances of Adam Peaty during the swimming competition this week. The man is head and shoulders above the rest of the world in the 50m and 100m Breaststroke, and became the first man under 26 seconds for 50m Breaststroke as he broke his own world record in the 50m semi-finals. It is a bit of a novelty seeing a British sportsperson so dominant in their event, so I’ll make no bones about shouting it from the rooftops. Great to see him inspiring the next generation of talent as well, as training partner Sarah Vasey made the 100m Breaststroke final in her first World Championships (there, a reference to women’s sport!).

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