Sarah Sjostrom

U.S. finishes swimming worlds with most medals in history

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BUDAPEST — The U.S. shattered the record for world swimming championships medals, winning eight more on the final day to finish with 45.

It held the previous record of 38 from 2017.

The U.S. closed out competition Saturday with gold in the men’s 50m backstroke (Justin Ress, who was disqualified, then had it overturned on appeal) and the women’s 4x100m medley relay.

“We have crushed it this whole week,” said Regan Smith, who led off the relay and also won the individual 100m back earlier in the meet. “We’ve had such good energy. This team is really special. It’s like no other team I’ve ever been on.”

Hunter Armstrong added silver in the 50m back, and the men’s medley relay also got silver.

Katie Grimes and Emma Weyant went silver-bronze in the 400m individual medley won by 15-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh.

Bobby Finke earned silver in the 1500m free (in an American record time) behind Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, who posted the second-fastest time in history.

Erika Brown tied for bronze in the 50m free for her first individual medal at a global championships after nine relay medals. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won the splash and dash for her 19th career individual world champs medal, one shy of Michael Phelps‘ record.

Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte won her first world title in nine years, taking the 50m breast. Meilutyte was the shock 2012 Olympic 100m breast champion at age 15, then briefly retired in 2019.

SWIMMING WORLDS: Results

The Americans, who topped the total medal standings at every Olympics and worlds since the end of the dubious East German reign in 1988, were expected to dominate this week.

Russians were banned due to the war in Ukraine. Some top swimmers from Australia, Canada and South Africa sat out or limited their schedules ahead of their quadrennial Commonwealth Games later this summer. Other stars missed out due to injury or COVID.

The Americans were led once again by Katie Ledecky, who swept her four events (in the absence of Australian rival Ariarne Titmus) and finished on Friday. Caeleb Dressel won two golds, then withdrew from the meet due to unspecified medical reasons.

Past champions returned to the top of the podium, such as Lilly King, Ryan Murphy and Regan Smith. Young talent climbed, such as Torri Huske, Alex Walsh, Grimes, Carson Foster, Michael Andrew, Phoebe Bacon and Leah Hayes.

The biggest breakouts were international.

Léon Marchand, a 20-year-old Frenchman who competes for Arizona State under Michael Phelps‘ longtime coach Bob Bowman, swept the men’s individual medleys. David Popovici, a 17-year-old Romanian, swept the 100m and 200m frees.

McIntosh, who had a pair of fourth-place Tokyo Olympic finishes at age 14, won the 200m fly and 400m IM and took second to Ledecky in the 400m free this week.

Hungarian Kristof Milak was the face of the meet, breaking his 200m butterfly world record and adding the 100m fly title in the absence of Dressel, the Olympic gold medalist and world record holder. Between Popovici and Milak, Dressel has major challengers in two of his three individual Olympic title events.

The most anticipated showdowns in the sport — Ledecky vs. Titmus, Dressel vs. Milak and Popovici, even Huske against Australian Emma McKeon in the 100m fly — did not take place here.

They must wait until, likely, next July’s world championships in Fukuoka, Japan, which will determine the early favorites for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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Katie Ledecky completes 4-for-4 swim worlds with 5-peat

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BUDAPEST — Katie Ledecky won all four of her events at the world swimming championships, capping it with an unprecedented fifth consecutive title in her trademark event, the 800m freestyle.

She clocked 8 minutes, 8.04 seconds, prevailing by 10.73 seconds over Australian Kiah Melverton and nodding upon seeing her time. Ledecky now has the 28 fastest times in history in the event. This one was the fifth fastest and her best since 2018.

“I thought I was a little faster that, but that’s the fastest I’ve been in a while, so I’m really thrilled with that,” she said. “Really excited about the future as well.”

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results | U.S. Roster

Ledecky became the first swimmer to win five consecutive world titles in an individual event. Her 19th career world gold medal broke her tie with Ryan Lochte for the second-most in history behind Michael Phelps (26).

Ledecky owns 22 career world championships medals of any color, trailing Lochte (27) and Phelps (33). She has 14 individual world titles, one shy of Phelps’ record.

Ten years ago, Ledecky won her first gold medal at age 15 at the London Olympics, in the 800m freestyle.

“I made it a goal to not be a one-hit wonder, and here we are,” Ledecky said, according to USA Swimming.

Earlier in the meet, Ledecky posted her fastest 4x200m free relay split ever, the fastest 400m free ever swum at a world championships and a 1500m free time that was 7.59 seconds faster than she went in the Tokyo Olympic final.

“Probably the most fun I’ve had a meet in a long time,” Ledecky said. “The results showed.”

In 2023, the anticipation will be for a showdown at the world championships with Australian rival Ariarne Titmus, who skipped these worlds to focus on the Commonwealth Games later this summer.

Titmus, after winning the Tokyo Olympic 200m and 400m frees, broke Ledecky’s world record in the 400m free at the Australian trials last month.

Earlier Friday, Americans Phoebe Bacon and Rhyan White took silver and bronze in the 200m backstroke. Bacon, who attended the same elementary and high schools as Ledecky, was edged for gold by Olympic champion Kaylee McKeown of Australia by four hundredths.

Michael Andrew earned 50m free silver, .09 behind Brit Ben Proud. It’s Andrew’s first world medal in an individual Olympic event.

Hungarian Kristof Milak became the third man to sweep the 100m and 200m butterflies at one worlds, joining Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos.

Milak took the 100m fly in 50.14 seconds in the absence of Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel, who withdrew from the meet earlier this week on unspecified medical grounds. In Tokyo, Dressel won in a world record 49.45 seconds, and Milak was second in 49.68 to supplant Phelps as the second-fastest man in history.

“I’m not satisfied with the time as I swam exactly the same time as in the semis,” Milak said, according to FINA. “But I won the gold and that’s the most important now.”

Swede Sarah Sjostrom four-peated in the 50m butterfly for her 18th individual world medal, moving two shy of Phelps’ record. Sjostrom, 28, can win a 19th in the 50m free on Saturday.

Australia won the mixed-gender 4x100m freestyle relay, which is not on the Olympic program, in a world record. The U.S. earned bronze.

Worlds wrap up Sunday. With two medals, the U.S. will break the record for most medals by one nation at a single worlds.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post stated Ledecky had the 27 fastest 800m free times in history. She has the 28 fastest.

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Sarah Sjostrom unlikely to defend Olympic 100m butterfly title, eyes freestyles

Sarah Sjostrom
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Swedish swimming star Sarah Sjöström said she’s unlikely to defend her Olympic 100m butterfly title in Tokyo, but plans to swim freestyle races, after breaking her right elbow slipping and falling on ice on Feb. 6.

Sjöström, the world-record holder in the 100m fly, 50m freestyle and 100m free, set a goal to race the 50m and 100m frees at the Olympics but didn’t rule out the 100m fly entirely, according to Swedish media translations of an audio interview.

Sjöström’s agency confirmed that’s her plan as of Monday.

Sjöström lowered her own 100m fly world record in becoming the first Swedish woman to win an Olympic swimming title in 2016, prevailing by .98 of a second.

She won her fourth world title in the event in 2017, but was relegated to silver at 2019 Worlds by Canadian Maggie MacNeil, a University of Michigan student who jumped from the 10th-fastest woman in history to second behind Sjöström.

Sjöström’s absence would open things up for young Americans, should they make their first Olympic team at Trials next month. Claire Curzan, 16, is second-fastest in the world this year behind China’s Zhang YufeiTorri Huske, 18, ranks fourth.

A healthy Sjöström is arguably the favorite in the 50m and 100m frees, though Simone Manuel won both events at 2019 Worlds.

Sjöström took silver to Katie Ledecky in the 200m free at the Rio Olympics — the closest of Ledecky’s three individual races — but enters that event intermittently at major international meets.

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