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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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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