By Sharon Robb
GWANGJU, South Korea, July 24, 2019—Hungarian teenager Kristof Milak broke Michael Phelps’ 10-year-old record in the 200-meter butterfly by nearly 8/10ths of a second Wednesday on Day Four of the 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships at Nambu International Aquatics Centre.
In front of a deafening crowd on its feet, Milak, 19, won in 1:50.73 to highlight world championship action. Milak had already won his semifinal in 1:52.96 and last year he swam 1:51.71 so he was poised to flirt with the record.
Phelps’ record was 1:51.51 at the 2009 World Championships in Rome during the era of the high-tech super suits.
Milak had the same first half split as Phelps did in 52.88 and went a full 0.78 on the back half after a great turn at the wall to blow away the field. Milak slapped the water in jubilation after he touched.
Milak is the first teenager to win a world title in the event since Phelps at age 18 in 2003.
“It is an amazing feeling,” said Milak who climbed out of the pool to a standing ovation and bowed twice in gratitude. “When I turned back and saw the time, all the pressure, all the tension just got off my back and all the joys came out.
“I tried to switch off everything, and I tried not to think of swimming at all before the race. It’s a tremendous honor to set such a great record.”
“There was a lot of chatter on the deck but this kid is 19…19 years old,” said NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines in a state of disbelief.
Milak’s 3.13-second margin of victory also overtakes Phelps for the largest in history. At the 2007 Championships in Melbourne, Phelps won by 3.04 seconds in 1:52.09 (which broke the world record by 1.62 seconds).
Phelps was asked about the world record performance after the race and said “Records are made to be broken.
“As frustrated as I am to see that record go down, I couldn’t be happier to see how he did it,” Phelps said. “That kid’s last 100 meters was incredible. He put together a great 200 fly from start to finish.”
Phelps owned the world record since 2001. His streak of 18 years was the longest for one men’s event in swimming.
Japan’s Daiya Seto was second in 1:53.86 and South African Chad Le Clos took bronze in 1:54.15. Le Clos was out under world record pace through the first lap before Milak overtook the lead after 150 meters.
“Unbelievable race, really,” Le Clos said. “Probably one of the greatest races ever.”
Phelps, 34, still holds world records in the 100-meter butterfly, which he broke in 2009, and the 400-meter individual medley, which he set in 2008.
In other finals:
Italian Federica Pellegrini, at 31 the oldest swimmer in the final, won the 200-meter freestyle in 1:54.22. Without Katie Ledecky in the field, the only swimmer in her way was Aussie 18-year-old Ariarne Titmus. It was her fourth career gold and record eighth consecutive medal in her signature event. Pellegrini is training to make her fifth Olympic team in Tokyo next year.
“I am too old for this,” Pellegrini joked after the race.
Titmus, who knocked off Ledecky earlier in the week, took silver in 1:54.66 and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom was third in 1:54.78. Sjostrum was administered oxygen on the pool deck after the race and later said she had a headache.
Australia came from behind to win the mixed 4×100 medley relay, with Cate Campbell reeling in American Simone Manuel on the final lap.
Mitch Larkin, Matthew Wilson, Emma McKeon and Campbell won in 3:39.08. Caeleb Dressel swam a blistering butterfly leg to haul the Americans from fourth to first before turning it over to Manuel for the anchor leg. But she couldn’t hold off a charging Campbell.
Ryan Murphy, Lilly King, Dressel and Manuel took silver in 3:39.10.
The crowd clapped along to the Italian national anthem for a second time when Gregorio Paltrinieri won the 800-meter freestyle in 7:39.27. Henrik Christiansen of Denmark earned silver and David Aubry of France took bronze.
Brit Adam Peaty cruised to a win in the 50-meter breaststroke, a non-Olympic event. He won in 26.06 seconds, adding to his 100 breast gold medal. Brazilians Felipe Lima and Joao Gomes Junior took silver and bronze.
Among past or current local swimmers results: 100-meter freestyle, 16. Dylan Carter, Trinidad & Tobago 48.77; 39. Renzi Tjon-A-Joe, Suriname 49.85; 200-meter individual medley, 47. Julio Horrego, Honduras 2:11.10 and 48. Patrick Groters, Aruba 2:11.38.
The world championships has brought together a record 2,620 athletes from 194 countries and territories around the world with 76 sets of medals up for grabs in pool swimming, open water swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming.
The meet will be streamed and televised by the Olympic Channel and live timing will be available.
Live Results: http://omegatiming.com
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com