Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte finished out of the medals in their first individual events at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, on Tuesday, one day after the U.S. went medal-less on one day at a Worlds for the first time ever.
The U.S. has won four medals in three days in Kazan with five days left. Its lowest medal total at an Olympics or Worlds in the last 50 years was 21 at the 1994 World Championships.
“I guess we got to go back to the drawing board,” U.S. Olympic champion Matt Grevers said after an unsatisfying bronze in the 100m backstroke on Eurosport. Grevers’ response was to a question about his event, but it could be relevant for every U.S. star other than Katie Ledecky.
Ledecky broke her 1500m freestyle world record for the second time in as many days, winning gold in 15:25.48 to improve 2.33 seconds on her record set in the semifinals Monday.
Ledecky won by 14.66 seconds over New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle, refusing to take it easy despite having to swim a 200m freestyle semifinal 30 minutes after finishing the 1500m free.
“It’s really inspiring to see someone like that because it really shows what is possible for the human body, especially in women’s swimming,” Boyle said on Eurosport. “It really shows what we can all be capable of.”
In the 200m free semis, Ledecky was in last place at 100 meters but recovered to finish third in her race and make the eight-woman final by .25, saying she thought over the last 50 meters, “Don’t mess this up.” She and Franklin will go head to head in the final Wednesday.
“That was a lot harder than I was hoping it would be,” Ledecky told Michele Tafoya on Universal Sports, after slipping down stairs following her 1500m free medal ceremony. “I only have 2,000 meters left of racing this week.”
Franklin finished fifth in the 100m backstroke Tuesday, 1.14 seconds behind Australian winner Emily Seebohm, her first individual World title in her fifth Worlds appearance. Franklin had a poor start, was in last place at the 50m turn and couldn’t catch silver medalist Madison Wilson of Australia or bronze medalist Mie Oe Nielsen of Denmark.
Seebohm said she was not surprised of Franklin’s fifth-place finish.
“I think she has worked very hard, and it took her a long time to get over her injury [back spasms at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships last August],” Seebohm, the silver medalist behind Franklin at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds, said on Eurosport. “I think she’ll be back on fire next year. We can’t expect to be on our best all the time. It’s definitely a fight to the finish, and she fought the whole way. … She’ll be back to give me another go next year.”
Franklin won the 100m back at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships. She has three individual events left this week — 200m back, 100m freestyle and 200m free.
“Definitely disappointed with the 100,” Franklin said, according to The Associated Press. “Obviously, that’s not what I wanted to go. But that’s where I am right now.”
Lochte finished fourth in the 200m free, .69 behind British winner James Guy. Lochte, 31, came in with the fastest qualifying time but went slower in the final than the semifinals.
“I never thought I’d make the final,” Guy, who also took 400m free silver behind Sun on Sunday, said on Eurosport. “I never thought I’d beat Sun Yang.”
China’s Sun led after 150 meters but lost to Guy by .06, ending Sun’s bid to become the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at a Worlds. Ledecky could become the first. German world-record holder Paul Biedermann took bronze behind Guy and Sun.
Lochte has one individual event left this week, the 200m individual medley.
Neither Franklin nor Lochte was at peak form in 2014 or so far in 2015, at least in part due to injuries.
Franklin, 20, suffered back spasms two days before the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, the major international meet of that year, and left with one individual medal, a bronze.
Lochte, 31, re-aggravated a 2013 knee injury in 2014 and, like Franklin, won one individual medal at Pan Pacs. Lochte won four individual gold medals at the 2011 Worlds.
Also Tuesday, Grevers earned the first U.S. men’s medal at Worlds, bronze in the 100m backstroke after he won the 2013 World title and the 2012 Olympic title. Grevers finished .26 behind Australian gold medalist Mitch Larkin and .18 behind French silver medalist Camille Lacourt.
“Right off the start, my head slipped of my cap, I kind of hurt a lot of momentum,” Grevers told Tafoya on Universal Sports. “There’s a lot of little things that went wrong. Turn wasn’t great. My breakouts weren’t my best. A little disappointing. I thought I had a lot more in the tank than that. … I thought I should have won that.”
Russian Yulia Efimova capped the night by winning the 100m breaststroke, igniting the Kazan crowd. Olympic and 2013 World champion Ruta Meilutyte took silver, followed by Jamaican Alia Atkinson. Efimova was competing after serving a doping ban. Atkinson won Jamaica’s first Worlds medal ever.
Great Britain’s Adam Peaty broke the world record in the 50m breaststroke semifinals at 26.42. The 50m breast is not contested at the Olympics.
Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and South African Olympic champion Chad le Clos led the qualifiers into Wednesday’s 200m butterfly final.
Men’s 200m Freestyle
Gold: James Guy (GBR) — 1:45.14
Silver: Sun Yang (CHN) — 1:45.20
Bronze: Paul Biedermann (GER) — 1:45.38
4. Ryan Lochte (USA) — 1:45.83
5. Sebastiaan Verschuren (NED) — 1:45.91
6. Chad le Clos (RSA) — 1:46.53
7. Aleksandr Krasnykh (KAZ) — 1:46.88
8. Cameron McEvoy (AUS) — 1:47.28
Women’s 100m Backstroke
Gold: Emily Seebohm (AUS) — 58.26
Silver: Madison Wilson (AUS) — 58.75
Bronze: Mie Oe Nielsen (DEN) — 58.86
4. Fu Yuanhui (CHN) — 59.02
5. Missy Franklin (USA) — 59.40
6. Anastaslia Fesikova (RUS) — 59.66
7. Lauren Alice Quigley (GBR) — 59.78
8. Kathleen Baker (USA) — 59.99
Women’s 1500m Freestyle
Gold: Katie Ledecky (USA) — 15:25.48
Silver: Lauren Boyle (NZL) — 15:40.14
Bronze: Boglarka Kapas (HUN) — 15:47.09
4. Lotte Friis (DEN) — 15:49.00
5. Jessica Ashwood (AUS) — 15:52.17
6. Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED) — 16:03.74
7. Kristel Kobrich (CHI) — 16:06.55
8. Aurora Ponsele (ITA) — 16:09.57
Men’s 100m Backstroke
Gold: Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 52.40
Silver: Camille Lacourt (FRA) — 52.48
Bronze: Matt Grevers (USA) — 52.66
4. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 52.89
5. Chris Walker-Hebborn (GBR) — 53.02
6. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 53.10
7. Evgeny Rylov (RUS) — 53.23
8. Liam Tancock (GBR) — 53.37