Ashley Twichell Wins First Gold For U.S. At 17th FINA World Aquatics Championships

By Sharon Robb

Budapest, Hungary, July 19, 2017—Ashley Twichell made history Wednesday at the 17th FINA World Aquatics Championships at Lake Balaton.

Twichell won the women’s 5K open water title and at age 28 became the oldest American to win an open water world title and oldest to win an individual world gold medal since Jenny Thompson in 2003.

Twichell is also the first American to win a gold medal at these world championships.

Twichell won the 3.1-mile race in 59 minutes and 7 seconds to knock off 10K women’s champion Aurelie Muller of France by 3.5 seconds. It was the U.S. team’s third consecutive open water 5K world title and Twichell’s third world championship medal in open water swimming. She won bronze in the 5K and gold in the team pursuit event in 2011.

“The goal here was to get on the podium,” Twichell said. “I’m really excited to get on the podium for the United States.”

Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha, who has trained and competed in South Florida, took the bronze medal, just 4.4 seconds back. It was her eighth career world open water medal.

Olympic gold medalist Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands and American Haley Anderson, the 2013 and 2015 world champion, were fourth and fifth respectively.

Twichell, a 2011 Duke alum, was coming off a disappointing tenth place finish in Sunday’s 10K race.

“I didn’t feel awesome during the 10K so I took two days in between to really try to recover and get my mind back straight,” Twichell said.

Twichell made her surge on Muller with 700 meters to go and never relinquished the lead.

“Having drafted for the first bit, I felt like I had something left,” said Twichell, who shook off a sore shoulder and lasting effects of an injury she has had in the last few years. “I didn’t feel like I used up everything, so that last straightaway I tried to bring in the legs which I typically don’t use. We swam at a perfect pace, and I left the others at the right moment close to the end.

“I really didn’t know how far behind me anyone was so I didn’t want to look back and waste any time. I just tried to put my head down as much as I could and go as hard as I could those last 240 meters.”


Jun Hoong Cheong of Malaysia upset gold medal favorite and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Ren Qian of China to win the gold medal in a thrilling women’s platform final.

Cheong, 27, who took a bronze medal in the 10-meter synchro event earlier in the week, won with 397.50 points, clinching her gold on the final dive by 1.5 points.

It was Malaysia’s first-ever world title not only in diving but the entire world championships.

Cheong was flawless, picking up four 10s on her reverse 2 ½ somersaults.

“My God, I am a world champion,” said a stunned Cheong. “Of course, it is a dream come true. It is the first gold medal at world championships in diving for Malaysia. It’s unexpected and unbelievable.

“I hoped for a medal, but I didn’t think I could beat the Chinese divers,” Cheong said. “I have focused only for myself and I watched the scoreboard after the last dive so I realized my win only at that moment.”

China teenager Si Yajie, 18, took the silver with 396.00 and Ren the bronze with 391.95 points. Ren, 16, was attempting to become the first diver to win three gold medals at a World Championship. Ren also lost in the 2015 final.

Four of the nine titles have been won by divers from other countries which means China will not match its total of 10 out of 13 accomplished in 2015.


Russian Svetlana Kolesnichenko won the women’s solo free title and her third gold medal of the world championships.

The 23-year-old won with 96.1333 points for her technical and rhythmed routine and 95.500 points in prelims. It was Russia’s first win in the event since 2009.

“I’m the Amazon in my free solo routine,” Kolesnichenko said. “So I kind of fight for gold in the true sense of the word. I like this program very much. I executed a very good performance in the final. I did the best I could and will continue to pursue this standard in the future.”

The duet free final is Thursday morning.

The U.S. team qualified for the team free final by placing 12th in Wednesday’s prelims. Russia was first with 96.800 points followed by China and the Ukraine. The team free final is Friday.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Dutchman Ferry Weertman Edges American Jordan Wilimovsky For Gold At 17th FINA World Championships

By Sharon Robb

Budapest, Hungary, July 18, 2017—In a thrilling finish, Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands sprinted to win the gold medal in the men’s 10K open water swimming race on Tuesday at Lake Batalon.

Weertman, the 2016 Olympic champion, won in 1 hour, 51 minutes and 58.5 seconds, finishing just 1/10th of a second ahead of American and defending champion Jordan Wilimovsky, a 2016 U.S. Olympian from Malibu, Calif, who took the silver medal after an incredible swim.

“Last year after my victory at the Olympics, I needed a big rest and many people asked me whether I would continue swimming or not,” Weertman said. “The answer was yes since I love swimming. I worked very hard for this result.

“In the last part of the race I realized that Marc, Jordan and Jack (Burnell) were in the first three places. But I was relaxed knowing that I have a very strong finish.”

Wilimovsky worked his way from 49th place and 31 seconds behind the leader. In the final 2.5, he moved into sixth place and was within seven seconds of the leader.

In the final 200 meters of the race, Wilimovsky was swimming side by side with Weertman and Saturday’s 5K winner Marc-Antoine Olivier of France.

Wilimovsky finished in 1:51:58.6. Olivier took the bronze in 1:51:59.2. Brendan Casey of Santa Monica, Calif., the other American in the field, was ninth in 1:52:18.6.

“I cannot complain about my swim,” Wilimovsky said. “I tried everything I could. There are plenty of very good swimmers in the 10K, so the silver medal is all right.”

A field of 65 swimmers competed in the choppy, warm lake water. The 5K women’s race is Wednesday.

Wilimovsky and Casey qualified for worlds finishing one-two at the U.S. Open Water National Championships at Castaic Lake in May.


The U.S. got its first medal in the mixed 3-meter/10-meter event. In her first international diving competition Nevada grad assistant coach Krysta Palmer and her partner David Dinsmore, a redshirt sophomore at University of Miami, took the bronze medal after scoring 395.90 points. “This event is very new to a lot of eyes,” Palmer said. “To have the opportunity to participate was incredible. We didn’t have many expectations coming into this, but we did it.” The last time Palmer qualified for the world championships was in 2010 in another sport, trampoline. She was unable to compete because of a torn ACL.

China has won five out of seven gold medals. Most recent winners are Chen Aisen and Yang Hao in the men’s 10-meter synchronized platform with 498.48 points. Shi Tingmao and 15-year-old Chang Yani won the women’s 3-meter synchro springboard.

European champions Laura Marino and Matthieu Rosset of France won the first diving title for their country in the mixed team event. The pair came from behind on their final dive to win with 406.40 points for the combined platform and 3-meter event.


Defending champion U.S. women defeated Spain, 12-8, to remain unbeaten. Maddie Musselman and Kiley Neushul each scored three goals. Goalkeeper Gabby Stone had 11 saves. The U.S., Olympic champion and winner of every major competition since the 2013 world championships, leads Group B with maximum points for two games. In other games, New Zealand defeated South Africa, 8-6, and Canada edged China, 9-8…

In men’s water polo, Croatia knocked off the U.S. in its opener. Croatia, which had just beaten the U.S. in a four-match series in California, won 12-7.


Giorgio Minisini and Manila Flamini earned Italy its first world gold medal in the mixed duet technical competition. The edged the Russian duo by 0.034 of a point with 90.2979 points. “Doing 90 in this competition is something unbelievable,” Minisini said.

Sharon Robb can be reached at