By Sharon Robb
BUDAPEST, Hungary, June 23, 2022–Americans Lilly King, Ryan Murphy and men’s 4×200 relay defied the odds to win gold at the 19th FINA World Aquatics Championships Thursday at Duna Arena.
Lilly King turned it on in the back half to win gold and her first world title of the meet in 2:22.41. Aussie Jenna Strauch was second in 2:23.04 and U.S. teammate Kate Douglas of University of Virginia was third in 2:23.20. It was King’s ninth career world gold medal and first in the 200. King has now won gold in every breaststroke event at worlds.
King was fifth at the final turn. “I guess I’m a distance swimmer now, which kind of stinks for me,” King said with a smile. “I knew today was about racing and I knew I would have a little bit left so I had to do it. Welcoming this new chapter of my career. I think this was my coach’s master plan all along.
“It’s awesome to win this gold,” King said. “I’m so excited to have this medal. That was a great race but that was all tactical. I think the one who wins the 200 is who can control the tactical part and the pace the best.”
Bolles alum Ryan Murphy, 26, won his first-ever individual world gold medal. A year after settling for silver at the Tokyo Olympics, the newly-engaged Murphy won the 200-meter backstroke in 1:54.52, 6/10ths ahead of the field. He was third after the opening 50 and with a 28.4 split took the lead at the 100 and led the rest of the way. Brit Luke Greenback was second in 1:55.16 and U.S. teammate Shaine Casas was third in 1:55.35.
“This one hurt a lot,” Murphy said. “I knew it was going to be a competitive field. This is what I worked for. My first individual title is really cool. Being able to come into something that I have a talent for, try to be the best in the world, that never gets old.
“There’s a ton of work that goes into this, not just on my end but my coaches, my teammates. So to come in, win a medal for myself and for the people who helped me and my country is really special.”
The U.S. ended its dry spell in the men’s 4×200 freestyle relay. The relay of Drew Kibler, Carson Foster, Trenton Julian and University of Florida’s Kieran Smith won in 7:00.24. Australia was second in 7:03.50 and Great Britain was third in 7:04.00. It was the first world title relay win in almost a decade since 2013.
Smith had a full three-body length and more than a 3-second lead heading into the final wall. Foster blew it open on the second leg with a 1:45.04 split and Smith turned in a 1:44.35 on anchor. The U.S. men, fourth at the 2020 Olympics, were not favored.
“Kieran and I were actually just looking at a photo taken right after we touched fourth at the Olympics last year, and it’s a pretty defeating photo,” Kibler said. “We were looking at it just before we came here, like, ‘We’re not going to experience that again.'”
Brazil’s Bruno Fratus, 32, of Coral Springs Swim Club, fastest qualifier in the 50-meter freestyle prelims in 21.71, lost a swim-off by 3/100ths of a second to end his medal hopes.
The Olympic bronze medalist was fourth in the semifinals in 21.83 tying Frenchman Maxime Grousset, 23, who came back to win the swim-off, 21.59-21.62. It was the 100th time in his career Fratus cracked 22 seconds in the event.
Fratus is one of 23 Florida Gold Coast swimmers competing on one of swimming’s biggest international stages.
Other FGC swimmers who competed on Thursday are:
Dylan Carter, 26, Trinidad & Tobago, (Plantation American Heritage, USC), 50 freestyle, 17th, 22.19.
Esteban Nunez de Prado, 18, Bolivia, (Azura), 100 butterfly, 50th, 55.61.
Jenebi Benoit, 19, Grenada, (Azura), 100 butterfly, 57th, 59.63.
Leon Seaton, 18, Guyana (Azura), 50 freestyle, 70th, 25.07.
Jordan Crooks, 20, Cayman Islands (TS Aquatics), 50 freestyle, 19th, 22.20.
Steven Aimable, 23, Senegal, (Azura), 100 butterfly, 43rd, 54.65.
FGC swimmers who compete on Friday:
Michaela Sierra, 17, Uruguay, (Azura, South Florida Heat, Auburn), 50 breaststroke.
Jahir Lopez, 17, Ecuador, (Azura) 1500 freestyle.
Yeziel Morales, 26, Puerto Rico, (Azura), 50 backstroke.
Jillian Crooks, 15, Cayman Islands (TS Aquatics), 50 freestyle.
In Thursday night’s final events:
WOMEN’S 100 FREESTYLE: In an exciting finish, Australia’s Mollie O’Callaghan, 18, won her second world title in 52.67. In sixth place at the 50, O’Callaghan surged in the final 10 meters to out-touch world record holder Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, second in 52.80. American Torri Huske, who was leading for the first 90 meters, was third in 52.92. U.S. teammate Claire Curzan was eighth in 53.81.
O’Callaghan was last at the wall before going 25.9 on the back half, outsplitting Sjostrom by 7/100ths of a second. Sjostrom is the first woman 100 free world record holder not to win a world title.
“I had to just trust myself and focus on myself especially for my back end, that is definitely my strongest point, my front end not so much,” O’Callaghan said. “It’s certainly weird at the moment to think that I’m a world champion.
“I was panicking in warm-up, I had a little bit of a cramp in my leg. I was just feeling dizzy, I just felt out of it in warm-up and I started to panic a little. But I had teammates there. I had Madi Wilson, I had the whole team and especially Dean supporting me so I guess that kind of uplifted me for this race.”
O’Callaghan is coached by Dean Boxall at St. Peters Western in Brisbane. Boxall is best known for going nutso in the stands while another one of his swimmers Ariarne Titmus won gold in the 200 and 400 freeestyles at the 2020 Olympics.
MEN’S 200 BREASTSTROKE: Australia’s Olympic champion Zac Stubblety-Cook won gold with a convincing 2:07.07. He was eighth at the 100 and third at the 150. He is the first Aussie to win a world title in the event. Japan’s Yu Hanaguruma was and Erik Persson of Sweden tied for second in 2:08.38.
In the 50-meter butterfly semifinals, Torri Huske broke the American record in 25.38 and qualified second behind Sjostrom (25.13).
Friday prelim events are women’s 50 freestyle, men’s 50 backstroke, women’s 50 breaststroke, mixed 4×100 freestyle and men’s 1500 freestyle.
The U.S. added six more medals to its tally of 14 gold, 6 silver and 12 bronze for 32. Australia is second with 12 total (4 golds, 7 silver, 1 bronze) and Italy third (4 golds, 1 silver, 3 bronze).
The swimming runs through Saturday with the pool events. The aquatics championships that also features diving, water polo, high diving, open water swimming and synchronized swimming end July 3.
The Olympic Channel and Peacock, on the NBC platform, is televising the finals at noon each day. A highlights show will be on NBC at noon on June 26. The FINA facebook page is also posting competition news. Canada’s CBC will also broadcast the swimming.
There are huge cheers for any Hungarian swimmers from spectators at Duna Arena. FINA, the sport’s governing body, has asked fans each day to clap rather than cheer as a precaution against coronavirus infections. There were no other requests or restrictions.
Friday, June 24: 50 women’s fly, 50 men’s free, 100 men’s fly, 200 women’s back, 800 women’s free, 4×100 mixed free relay.
Saturday, June 25: 50 men’s back, 50 women’s breast, 1500 men’s free, 50 women’s free, 400 women’s IM, 4×100 men’s and women’s medley relay.
Sunday, June 26: Open water, 6K team relay.
Monday, June 27: Open water, men’s and women’s 5K.
Wednesday, June 29: Open water, men’s and women’s 10K.
Thursday, June 30: Open water, men’s and women’s 25K.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org