Kristof Milak crushes world record at home swim wolds; Bobby ‘Finkes’ again

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BUDAPEST — In 2019, Kristof Milak broke Michael Phelps‘ world record at age 19. In 2021, he won Olympic gold. But the highlight of his swimming career thus far happened on Tuesday night at the world championships in his home pool.

The Hungarian broke his own world record — by a significant 39 hundredths of a second — winning the 200m butterfly by a giant 3.03 seconds, or more than two body lengths.

Milak clocked 1:50.34. Phelps, the second-fastest flier in history, had a best time of 1:51.51, which stood as the world record for 10 years. But now Milak owns the five best times in history.

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“This is my home, my pool, I train here, I race here, lane four belongs to me, I really wanted to show something big for these fantastic people,” Milak said. “The Olympic gold means a lot, but winning here, with a new world record, in front of 4,000 people – that eclipses everything.”

Milak splashed and pointed at the scoreboard upon his finish, but the effort clearly took its toll. He loved everything about the raucous minutes in the Duna Arena — until he climbed out of the pool.

“I don’t feel my legs,” said Milak, who sat on the deck before taking any steps, absorbing the atmosphere. Moments later, he sat down again while doing an arena interview. Then he lay on his back on the mixed zone carpet after doing a Hungarian TV interview.

“I also asked the Hungarian announcer [before the race] to push the crowd over the last 60 meters,” he said. “As I’ve heard from the stands, he kept his promise.”

Milak was a backstroker until age 14, but even when he devoted to the butterfly, he focused on the 100m because he lacked strength.

At these worlds, Milak’s showdown with Caeleb Dressel in the 100m fly later this week might have been more anticipated than his 200m fly. But Dressel, the Olympic gold medalist and world record holder, is now in doubt for that race after he scratched Tuesday’s 100m free semifinals on unspecified medical grounds.

“With Caeleb or without Caeleb, my goal in the 100m fly is possibly to try to win the gold medal or try to win the silver medal or even maybe set a new world record,” Milak, who was .23 behind Dressel in Tokyo, supplanting Phelps as the second-fastest man in the event’s history, said through a translator. “Of course, it would be much better that while we are in this house Caeleb would swim the 100m fly to have that fight, but we’ll see what he decides.”

Also Tuesday, American Bobby Finke followed his surprise Olympic 800m and 1500m freestyle gold medals with his first world title.

Finke, 22, won the 800m free in an American record 7 minutes, 39.36 seconds, prevailing by 27 hundredths over German Florian Wellbrock. Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk earned bronze.

Just like Tokyo, he “Finke’d” the field, coming from fourth place at 750 meters to snatch gold. Last summer, he became the first American man to win an Olympic distance freestyle title since 1984. Here, he became the first American man to win a world championships distance freestyle event since 1975.

“There was only one goal for me, to go with the group and finish in my typical way, make a sprint over the last 50,” Finke said. “It was very painful, but it was worth every stroke.”

American Nic Fink won two gold medals — in the 50m breaststroke, which is not an Olympic event, and as part of the mixed 4x100m medley relay with Hunter ArmstrongTorri Huske and Claire Curzan. The U.S. was fifth in the mixed medley relay’s Olympic debut as the lone nation to not use a male breaststroker in Tokyo.

Fink made his first Olympic team last year at the advanced age (for a swimmer) of 27 and at this meet won his first Olympic or world medals. Fink is working toward a master’s degree in computer and electrical engineering and taking his swimming career “six months at a time.”

China’s Yang Junxuan won a women’s 200m free final that lacked all three Tokyo Olympic medalists. Yang, who was fourth in Tokyo, prevailed in 1:54.92, topping Aussie Mollie O’Callaghan by three tenths. China’s Tang Muhan took bronze.

Tokyo gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia is skipping worlds to focus on the Commonwealth Games later this summer. Silver medalist Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong withdrew before her races at worlds with an ankle injury. Bronze medalist Penny Oleksiak of Canada was disqualified from the semifinals for a false start.

Katie Ledecky, the 2016 Olympic champion, qualified to swim the 200m free at worlds but dropped it to focus on her longer events. Ledecky had Tuesday off in Budapest and returns Wednesday for the 4x200m free relay.

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Luz Long’s Olympic silver medal for sale from Jesse Owens long jump duel

Jesse Owens, Luz Long
Getty
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One of the most consequential Olympic medals ever awarded is on the auction block — the silver medal captured in 1936 by Germany’s Luz Long, the long jumper who walked arm in arm through the stadium with Jesse Owens to celebrate their triumphs while Adolf Hitler watched from the stands.

Long’s family has decided to auction the medal and other collectibles from the German jumper’s career. Long was killed in World War II in 1943.

The auction house selling the medal has labeled Long’s collection “The Beacon of Hope.”

“The story of Jesse Owens never seems to end,” said Long’s granddaughter, Julia Kellner-Long, in a phone interview from her house in Munich. “My grandfather has always been inspirational and influential in the way I choose to see the world, and this is something I think the world outside needs. Now more than ever. It gives us hope.”

Long cemented himself in Olympic lore during the Berlin Games when he was the first to congratulate Owens on his triumph in the long jump. Later they walked around the stadium together and posed for pictures.

There’s also the story Owens told of Long approaching him after he fouled on his first two attempts in the preliminary round. With only one more try to make the final, Owens said Long suggested he take off a foot in front of the board, to assure he wouldn’t foul on his last try. Owens took that advice and went on to win the title — one of four he captured in Berlin — with a then-Olympic record jump of 8.06 meters (26 feet, 5 1/2 inches).

Owens was Black, and his stirring success at those Olympics was said to have annoyed Hitler by puncturing the Nazi myth of Aryan racial superiority.

The camaraderie between Owens and Long, and the relationship that ensued between the men and their families, are often held up as the prime example of what the Olympics are supposed to be about — a peaceful coming together of people from different countries and cultures who set their differences aside in the spirit of competition.

“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me,” Owens said, years later. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace.”

The decision to sell came shortly after Luz’s son (and Julia’s father), Kai, died at age 80. Kellner-Long said the great responsibility of preserving her grandfather’s memorabilia should be passed onto an individual, or museum, that has the time and resources to do so. The family also wanted to use the sale to rekindle the story of Long and Owens.

“Even 86 years later, shining a beacon of hope is an important and realistic value, especially in a time of increasing racism, increasing exclusion and hatred,” Kellner-Long said.

The auction house started the bidding for Long’s medal at $50,000, and estimated the value at somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million. The bidding runs through Oct. 15. The value of Olympic medals on the open market varies widely. One of Owens’ four gold medals from 1936 fetched $1.46 million. Bill Russell’s gold medal from the 1956 Olympics recently sold for $587,500.

David Kohler of SCP Auctions, which is conducting the sale, said the medal is about Long, but also “the story of the courageousness and the athlete and what he did there.”

Long didn’t live long enough to see his legacy play out. He was killed in 1943 in the battle of St. Pietro on the Italian island of Sardinia. Shortly before that, he wrote a letter to Owens, one he predicted would be “the last letter I shall ever write.”

In it, Long asked Owens to go to Germany after the war and find his son.

“Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we were not separated by war,” Long wrote. “I am saying — tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”

Owens and Kai Long met several times over the years, including at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in 1966. Owens later was a best man at Kai’s wedding.

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Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson
Puma
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Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

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