By Sharon Robb
Budapest, Hungary, July 26, 2017—Italy’s world record holder Federica Pellegrini proved American superstar Katie Ledecky can be beaten.
The veteran swimmer won her seventh consecutive medal since 2005 in the 200-meter freestyle on Wednesday at the 17th FINA World Aquatic Championships at Duna Aquatics Arena.
“I was only fourth at the Olympic Games last year, so this is a great success for me,” Pellegrini said. “I was thinking of the medal but I never thought it would be gold. What a nice gift for the last 200 meter freestyle of my life. I still can’t believe it.”
Pellegrini, 28, turned it on in the last 50 meters to win in 1:54.73 with a blistering 28.82 back half, nearly a full second faster than Ledecky and McKeon.
Ledecky, defending Olympic and world champion in the 200-meter freestyle, took silver in 1:55.18 tying Aussie Emma McKeon for second.
It was the first time Ledecky had lost at a world championship. Ledecky had been 12-for-12 over the last three championships including three golds this week.
“It was a very tough competition and a very good race,” Ledecky said. “I think I have to watch the video of the race before I can tell more but I am still motivated for all the other races here. I just didn’t really have it today. I can’t complain really with the silver.”
Pellegrini became the first swimmer in the history of the championships to capture seven medals in a single individual event.
It was a good day for Italy upsetting favorites.
Italy’s Gabriele Detti upset favorite Sun Yang of China to win the 800-meter freestyle in 7:40.77 and teammate Gregorio Paltrinieri took the bronze medal in 7:42.44. After winning the three world 800 titles in the last three consecutive worlds, Sun faltered to fifth place in 7:48.87.
“We train a lot so we are used to this type of competition,” Detti said. “But it was great that Italy led this event.”
In other races:
In the mixed medley relay, Caeleb Dressel and Ryan Murphy picked up gold medals. Murphy, Kevin Cordes, Kelsi Worrell and Mallory Commerford broke the world record in 3:40.28 during prelims and the foursome of Dressel, Matt Grevers, Lilly King and Simone Manuel re-broke the record in 3:38.56 to win and finish ahead of Australia and Canada. It was Dressel’s second gold medal of the week. It was Murphy’s first gold after taking a bronze in the 100-meter backstroke.
In the men’s 50-meter breaststroke and after two world record swims, Brit Adam Peaty, 22, won in 25.99, only the second performance under 26 seconds. Brazilian Joao Gomes Junior took silver in 26.52 ahead of South African Cameron Van Der Burgh.
South African Chad Le Clos returned to the spotlight to win the gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly ahead of hometown favorite Laszlo Cseh, 31, in 1:53.33 and regain his world crown. Japan’s Daiya Seto won his first medal in the event with a bronze. Le Clos was overcome with emotion on the awards podium.
“It was unbelievable and so emotional, with the hard year I had with my family, both my parents fighting cancer,” Le Clos said. “I fought for my family tonight.
“It is a great honor to be here in the stadium, probably one of the best I have ever competed in, together with my great friend, Laszlo,” Le Clos said. “It was a very emotional event, before, during and after the race for me. I am very thankful and lucky that I touched home first.”
In a shocker, Bolles alum Joseph Schooling failed to get out of the prelims of the 100-meter freestyle in 48.86. He finished 17th. “It was a pretty rough meeting, not going to lie,” Schooling said. “Having a day off, first race after that, definitely felt pretty rough.”
Croatia remained unbeaten with a 12-9 victory over Italy to advance into the semifinals. Croatia also defeated the U.S., Russia and Japan in group play. Croatia plays defending champion Serbia in the semifinals on Thursday. Medal favorite Hungary routed Russia, 14-5, and will play Greece in the other semifinal. The final is Saturday. The U.S. won its last three games and finished 13th with a 3-2 record. The U.S. beat Russia, South Africa and France.
In the women’s semifinals, the U.S. and Spain advanced into Friday’s gold medal game. The U.S. defeated Olympic bronze medalist Russia, 14-9, and Spain eliminated Canada, 12-10. Russia and Canada will play for the bronze medal.
The defending world champion U.S. team is the only team undefeated in the field.
China leads in total medals with 25 (12 goal, 9 silver and 4 bronze). Russia has 17 (8 gold, 3 silver, 6 bronze). The U.S. has 22 (7 gold, 9 silver, 6 bronze). France and Great Britain each had seven total. Four days remain until the Closing Ceremony.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org