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Bad week for Phelps: highs and lows of world swimming championships

By AFP - Jul 29,2019 - Last updated at Jul 29,2019

USA’s Katie Ledecky competes in the final of the women’s 800m freestyle event during the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, on Saturday (AFP photo by Francois-Xavier Marit)

GWANGJU, South Korea — From Caeleb Dressel’s relentless pursuit of gold to the record-breaking exploits of Adam Peaty and Hungary’s Kristof Milak, we look at the best of the world swimming championships in Gwangju:

 

Dressel’s hair loss

 

American superstar Caeleb Dressel finished with six gold medals in South Korea to add to the seven he scooped in Budapest two years ago, going a perfect four from four in his individual events, including a successful defence of the blue riband 100 metres freestyle.

But the tattooed pin-up’s highlight had to be the semifinal of the 100m butterfly when he crushed Michael Phelps’s 10-year-old world record, clocking a jaw-dropping 49.50 seconds to eclipse the American legend’s mark by 0.32. Despite his success in Gwangju, Dressel claimed “hair loss” due to stress.

 

Sun burn

 

No major swimming championship goes by without fireworks involving Chinese giant Sun Yang, who brilliantly retained his 200 and 400m freestyle titles, but was snubbed on the podium by rivals Mack Horton and Duncan Scott over allegations of doping violations.

The controversial triple Olympic champion, who according to a leaked FINA doping panel report had blood vials smashed with a hammer, reacted furiously and claimed he was standing up for all athletes by not allowing what he called “unlicensed” testers to take away samples. 

 

Ledecky ‘tough as nails’

 

After losing her 400m freestyle title to Aussie teenager Ariarne Titmus in a stunning upset at the start of meet, American great Katie Ledecky pulled out of the defence of her 1,500m title and 200m heats with a virus. 

But after a couple of days off — and boosted by an encouraging late-night text from Phelps — Ledecky hit back by capturing gold in the 800m free, fighting off European champion Simona Quadarella to claim her 15th world title. A watching Dressel purred: “Goodness, that girl is tough as nails!”

 

Milak attack

 

Hungarian teenager Kristof Milak took down Phelps’s long-standing 200m butterfly world record with a flawless swim, firing off an astonishing 1:50.73 to slice 0.78 seconds off Phelps’s old bodysuit mark.

As Milak, 19, vowed to go even quicker at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, Phelps paid tribute to his “beautiful technique”, though admitted he felt sad to lose the world record in his pet event. All in all a bad week for Phelps, whose only remaining individual world record is the 400m individual medley. 

 

Project 56

 

Adam Peaty flexed his muscles on day one when the Briton shattered his own 100m breaststroke world record, becoming the first swimmer to break the magic 57-second barrier. Buzzing after finally realising his “Project 56”, Peaty roared: “I’ve evolved so much — I’m not an angry teenager anymore!”

The Olympic champion, unbeaten over the distance in major competition for five years, stormed to a time of 56.88 seconds to lop more than two tenths of his old mark before retaining his 50m title and helping Britain’s 4x100m medley relay team to a sensational upset over Dressel’s Americans.

Great Scott!

 

About that relay: When Dressel logged the fastest butterfly split ever to give teammate Nathan Adrian a lead of half-a-body-length in the 4x100m medley, he could have expected a seventh gold — but Duncan Scott has other ideas.

Scott, who had sparked angry scenes with his podium protest against Sun, exploded from the blocks to smash the anchor leg, hunting down Adrian as he clocked a sizzling 46.14 to give the Brits a famous win — and a third gold for a giddy Peaty.

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