Federica Pellegrini

Michael Phelps world record shattered by 19-year-old at swimming worlds

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Michael Phelps‘ world record in his signature event was emphatically wiped away by 19-year-old Hungarian Kristof Milak at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea on Wednesday.

Milak clocked 1:50.73, taking .78 off Phelps’ mark from the 2009 World Championships, where since-banned high-tech swimsuits contributed to a bevy of fast times.

“As frustrated as I am to see that record go down, I couldn’t be happier to see how he did it,” Phelps said after watching the race online, according to The New York Times. “That kid’s last 100m was incredible. He put together a great 200 fly from start to finish.”

Phelps held the world record since 2001, his streak of 18 years the longest for one men’s event in swimming history, according to Olympic historians Bill Mallon and Hilary Evans.

Milak was a backstroker until age 14, but even when he devoted to the butterfly, he focused on the 100m because he lacked strength. Milak broke out in 2018 by lowering his 200m personal best to 1:52.71, the sixth-fastest time in history behind four from Phelps and one from countryman Laszlo Cseh.

“I tried to switch off everything, and I tried not to think of swimming at all before the race,” he said. “It’s a tremendous honor to set such a great record.”

Phelps won eight combined Olympic and world titles in the 200m fly, the event where he made his Olympic debut in 2000 (placing fifth).

Phelps broke his first of 39 world records across all events in the 200m fly in March 2001 at a meet where he listened to “Perfect Gentleman” by Wyclef Jean on a CD player on repeat before races. At 15, Phelps was the youngest man to break a world record.

He won his first world title in the 200m fly, later in 2001, and lowered the world record eight times overall.

Phelps, who retired after his record 28th Olympic medal in Rio and has brushed off comeback questions for the last three years, still owns world records in the 100m butterfly and 400m individual medley.

Milak became the first man to break a Phelps world record since Milorad Cavic took the 100m fly mark at the 2009 Worlds, where Phelps snatched the record back the following day.

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Also Wednesday, Caeleb Dressel‘s bid for a Phelps-record-breaking eight golds at a single worlds may have ended as Australia edged the U.S. by .02 in the mixed-gender 4x100m medley. Dressel made up a 7.21-second deficit on the third leg, the butterfly, because two women and two men were scattered across the four spots for each team. But Australian Cate Campbell made up a 1.25-second deficit on Simone Manuel on anchor.

Dressel matched Phelps’ record seven golds at a single worlds two years ago with the help of two mixed-gender relays that weren’t on the program in Phelps’ heyday. Dressel can still get to seven as he’s expected to race in five more finals this week, but to reach eight, he must be added to the men’s 4x200m free, which he was not part of in 2017.

Controversial Chinese Sun Yang was sixth in the 800m freestyle, a final that went off without an American for the first time in 12 years. Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, the Olympic 1500m champion, prevailed by 2.01 seconds in 7:39.27.

Sun won the 800m in 2011, 2013 and 2015 but has in recent years shifted toward the 200m and 400m frees, which he won earlier this week and faced podium protests from Australian and British medalists. The 800m marked the last individual event for Sun at this meet.

Italian Federica Pellegrini earned her fourth world title in the 200m free and her eight straight medal dating to 2005. Pellegrini, a 30-year-old who next year will be older than any individual female Olympic swimming champion, surged past 18-year-old Australian Ariarne Titmus in the last 50 meters to win by .44 in 1:54.22.

Two years ago, Pellegrini handed Katie Ledecky her first major international final loss in any individual event. Ledecky, plus medal contenders Emma McKeon of Australia and Taylor Ruck of Canada, withdrew before Tuesday’s 200m free heats, with Ledecky and McKeon citing illness. Ledecky was still under the weather on Wednesday, dampening her hopes of starting her last two events of the meet — Thursday’s 4x200m free and the 800m free Friday and Saturday.

Brit Adam Peaty completed a sweep of the 50m and 100m breaststrokes for a third straight worlds, clocking 26.06 seconds. Peaty owns the seven fastest times in history in the non-Olympic event, including the world record of 25.95.

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Federica Pellegrini hints at retirement after beating Katie Ledecky

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The stylish Federica Pellegrini is going out on top.

The Italian superstar said after beating Katie Ledecky in the world championships 200m freestyle that she believed it would be the last 200m free of her career at the highest level of swimming.

Pellegrini, a 28-year-old fashion lover, would leave as the greatest women’s 200m freestyler ever.

Her 200m free world record from the 2009 World Championships — where Pellegrini was the main attraction in Rome — is the longest-standing mark in women’s swimming.

Pellegrini burst onto the scene by taking Olympic silver in 2004 one week after turning 16 years old. She was dubbed the “Lioness of Verona” because she used to hang pictures of lions up in her room and watch “The Lion King.”

She remains the youngest Italian to earn an individual Olympic medal in any sport.

Pellegrini then captured gold at Beijing 2008, breaking the world record in the first round and the final and becoming Italy’s first female Olympic swimming gold medalist.

Pellegrini missed the Olympic podium in 2012 and 2016 but among her four Olympics won world 200m free medals every odd-numbered year from 2005 through 2017. No other swimmer has earned a world medal in one event seven times.

Pellegrini is so highly regarded in Italy that the nation’s daily sports newspaper, Gazzetta dello Sport, honored her twice as the world female athlete of the year in 2009 and 2011. She is the only Italian athlete — male or female — to receive the global honor twice from Gazzetta, which last year bestowed a special “legend” award to her and Olympic Alpine skiing champion Alberto Tomba.

Pellegrini said as far back as 2014 that she planned to retire after the Rio Games to start a family with longtime boyfriend and swimmer Filippo Magnini. But after a post-Olympic break she was reported in Italian media this spring to say she eyed the 2020 Tokyo Games.

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Katie Ledecky beaten in 200m free at world championships (video)

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Katie Ledecky didn’t feel like herself. She didn’t look it, either, as another swimmer chased her down.

Ledecky lost an individual final at a major international meet for the first time in 14 tries, taking silver in the 200m freestyle at the world championships in Budapest on Wednesday.

Italian world-record holder Federica Pellegrini won in 1:54.73, which was .04 slower than Ledecky’s semifinal time Tuesday.

Ledecky and Australian Emma McKeon tied for silver in 1:55.18.

Ledecky had won all 13 of her individual finals at the Olympics, world championships and Pan Pacific Championships before Wednesday.

“I just didn’t feel really like myself in the middle of that race,” Ledecky said on NBCSN after going slower in an individual final than in early rounds for the first time at a major international meet. “It felt like I was scrambling a little bit at the end. That hurts a little but, but I’m going to come back stronger and be really good in that event the next couple of years.”

In other events, South African Chad le Clos went out hard and held on to win the 200m butterfly in 1:53.33. That time would have beaten rival Michael Phelps by .03 in Rio. It was Le Clos’ fastest since upsetting Phelps at the 2012 Olympics.

The U.S. mixed medley relay team lowered the world record in the preliminary heats and the final Wednesday, beating Australia by 2.65 seconds.

China’s Sun Yang failed in a bid for a fourth straight world title in the 800m free. He finished fifth, eight seconds behind Italian winner Gabriele Detti.

Brit Adam Peaty repeated as world champion in the 50m breaststroke, a non-Olympic event, after lowering his world record in the prelims and semis.

But the women’s 200m free was the showcase event Wednesday.

McKeon led Ledecky by .01 after 150 meters, but the veteran Pellegrini surged past both swimmers with the fastest final length by seven tenths of a second. Ledecky told media in Budapest that she didn’t have “that extra gear” that she normally summons.

Ledecky’s quest to match Missy Franklin‘s female record of six gold medals at a single worlds is now over. She can still win five gold medals this week.

Ledecky has the 4x200m freestyle relay Thursday, where the U.S. is a heavy favorite, and the 800m freestyle on Friday and Saturday, where she holds the 13 fastest times in history.

Ledecky has been between one and two seconds slower than her times at the Rio Olympics in three events at worlds. This doesn’t count the 1500m free, which wasn’t swum in Rio. She can get away with that in distance races, but not in her shortest individual event, the 200m free.

Ledecky saw major changes since Rio, moving from the D.C. area, enrolling at Stanford and swimming under a new coach for the first time in four years. Then she swam a full NCAA season in the fall and winter.

“Maybe I haven’t been quite on point as much as I would’ve hoped to have been this week, but I’ve still been feeling good,” Ledecky said.

Pellegrini, whose 200m free world record from 2009 is the oldest female mark still standing, became the first swimmer to earn seven world medals in a single event. Pellegrini also earned Olympic silver in 2004 at age 16 and gold in 2008, but was fifth in 2012 and fourth in 2016.

She said after the race that it would be the final 200m of her career “at this level.”

“I honestly thought the one to win the race would be Katie,” Pellegrini said, according to The Associated Press, “and it wasn’t.”

Ledecky’s biggest rival in the 200m free, Swede Sarah Sjöström, chose not to enter the event in Budapest as she focuses on the 50m and 100m butterflies and freestyles.

Sjöström clocked 1:54.08 for silver in Rio (.35 behind Ledecky) and 1:54.31 leading off the 4x200m free relay at 2015 Worlds (.85 faster than Ledecky’s winning time in the 200m free final which Sjöström also skipped).

In Wednesday semifinals, Americans Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian were the second- and third-fastest qualifiers into the 100m freestyle final Thursday. France’s Mehdy Metella qualified first by .01 over Dressel.

Chase Kalisz, the Olympic 400m individual medley silver medalist, qualified fastest into Thursday’s 200m IM final.

Olympic champion Mireia Belmonte of Spain and Hungarian Katinka Hosszu were among the qualifiers into Thursday’s 200m butterfly final.

Women’s 200m Freestyle Results
Gold: Federica Pellegrini (ITA) — 1;54.73

Silver: Katie Ledecky (USA) — 1:55.18
Silver: Emma McKeon (AUS) — 1:55.18
4. Veronika Popova (RUS) — 1:55.26
5. Siobhan Haughey (HKG) — 1:55.96
6. Leah Smith (USA) — 1:56.06
7. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) — 1:56.35
8. Charlotte Bonnet (FRA) — 1:56.62

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