BUDAPEST, Hungary, July 27, (Agencies): Caeleb Dressel put the United States back on top in swimming’s glamour event. Chase Kalisz proved to be a worthy successor to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Call it a changing of the guard for the American men. The 20-year-old Dressel emerged as his country’s newest sprinting star with a victory in the 100-meter freestyle, holding off longtime US stalwart Nathan Adrian at the world championships Thursday.
Dressel got off to a blistering start and won in a relative rout in the down-and-back race, touching in 47.17 seconds. Adrian surged from behind over the final strokes to claim the silver in 47.87, edging France’s Mehdy Metella — the fastest qualifier from the semifinals and swimming between the two Americans — by just two-hundredths of a second.
Dressel climbed up on a lane rope and pounded the water with both fists.
Adrian glided quickly from two lanes over to embrace the new world champion.
“I’m very excited about that,” Dressel said. “But more importantly, Americans went 1-2. I think that’s more exciting than any time that could be shown on that board.”
It was the biggest US triumph in the 100 free since Adrian won gold at the 2012 London Olympics.
Kalisz, meanwhile, extended American rule of the 200-meter individual medley, rallying to claim his first major international championship. The Americans have won the event at eight straight world championships, not to mention at the last four Olympics — with Phelps or Lochte winning every time.
“The US has always been dominant in IMs, and that’s been one of our proudest traditions,” Kalisz said. “Michael and Ryan have been the centerpiece of that for almost 15 years now.”
But Kalisz is still miffed about a silver medal in the 400 IM at Rio, a setback that ended America’s dominance of that event.
“It took a toll on me for a few months,” he said. “The second I turned it around into motivation was kind of when I started making leaps forward. I think of that moment every single day. I never forget it. It’s probably my biggest motivator.”
The American reign of the 200 IM began with Phelps’ coming-out at the 2003 worlds in Barcelona.
Lochte had won the last two world titles.
Neither is in Budapest, of course.
Phelps retired for the second time after the Rio Games, while Lochte missed out on a chance to qualify for the US team because of a suspension for his embarrassing antics at last summer’s Olympics.
Kalisz made sure the Americans didn’t miss a beat, finally breaking through on a big stage. In addition to that disappointing silver from the Olympics, he also had a bronze and a silver in the 400 IM at the two previous worlds.
Now, finally, he’s claimed gold.
It was a huge surprise. Kalisz was only fifth after the opening butterfly lap but stormed back to win in 1 minute, 55.56 seconds. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino claimed the silver, with the bronze going to China’s Wang Shun.
“If you had told me that this would be my first world title, I would have definitely laughed at you,” Kalisz said. “Four months ago, I was over three seconds slower. I know that I was going to be able to go faster than that time, but to get to the level where I am right now … like I said, I probably would have laughed.”
Katie Ledecky led the USA to the women’s 4x200m freestyle title at the world championships on Thursday with a powerful anchor leg to win her fourth gold medal in Budapest.
Ledecky touched the wall at seven minutes, 43.39 seconds while Li Bingjie, who took silver for China, finished at 1.57 secs back and Adriane Titmus earned bronze for Australia at 5.12.
Victory marked a great night for the United States after Chase Kalisz earlier won the men’s 200m individual medley gold.
Then Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian came first and second respectively in the men’s 100m freestyle final.
Ledecky swung the relay for the USA quartet when she dived in for the final leg.
She was on Li’s shoulder for the first 50 metres, but made her move at the first turn and ended up finishing a full length ahead of the Chinese.
Having been beaten into joint second by Federica Pellegrini in Wednesday’s 200m freestyle — Ledecky’s first defeat in 13 finals at world championships — the 20-year-old freestyle queen bounced back in style.
Ledecky has now won five medals at these championships after gold in the 400m freestyle, 1500m freestyle, the 4x100m, plus that 200m silver.
Another gold beckons for her on Saturday night when she defends her 800m freestyle crown as the reigning world and Olympic champion.
Spain’s Mireia Belmonte won the women’s 200m butterfly to add to her Olympic gold medal.
Belmonte touched the wall in two minutes, 05.26 seconds with Germany’s Franziska Hentke taking silver at 0.13 back and Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu earning bronze at 0.63.
Having won world silver at home in Barcelona four years ago, Belmonte has gone one better a year after being crowned Olympic champion in Rio.
“This is one of the best moments of my life,” said the Spaniard. “This golden medal was the last which was missing from my collection.
“Rio is the best moment in my life, but this is an important moment. The key to win this final was the first 100 metres.”
This was Belmonte’s second medal of these championships after she took silver in the 1500m freestyle on Tuesday — finishing 19 seconds behind gold-medallist and long-distance queen Katie Ledecky of the USA.
Hentke, 28, the European champion in 2016, was stunned by her silver, the first major medal of her career.
“I don’t know what to say, I am absolutely speechless and I am so happy,” said Hentke, who claimed Germany’s first swimming medal in Budapest.
“When I saw the line-up for the final I was sure that only Mireia Belmonte, Katinka Hosszu and me can take a medal, but I still can’t believe it that I got the silver.”
Brazil’s Etiene Medeiros won the women’s 50m backstroke in a desperately tight final which she won on the wall.
Medeiros clocked 27.14 seconds, a new Americas record just 0.08 away from the world record set in 2009, while China’s Fu Yuanhui took silver at 0.01 back.
Bulgaria’s Aliaksandra Herasimenia earned bronze at just 0.09 behind as all eight swimmers in the final finished within half a second of Medeiros.
Having won silver at the Kazan world championships two years ago, the 26-year-old Medeiros went one better in Budapest having also come within 0.12 of the world record on Wednesday.
In the semi-finals, Fu had also been just 0.01 seconds behind Medeiros.
“I’m so happy. Two years ago I was second, but now I’m the champion, so this is so important in my life,” said Medeiros.
“I want to thank to my coach – this year has been so different for me.
“Now I’m so relaxed.
“Last night was so hard for me, because I was thinking about the final.
“I wasn’t confident of winning after last night’s semi-finals and the Chinese was very strong today.
“I was a bit nervous, but I took time to relax and just be happy and it worked out.”
Having been so narrowly beaten, Fu is edging her way towards her first major title.
“It was a very tight finish, but in backstroke, this is absolutely normal,” said Fu.
“I’m not completely satisfied with my result, but, of course, I’m happy about my silver medal.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t swim my personal best, so I have a little feeling of wanting more.”
Fu now has world silver after wining joint bronze over 100m at last year’s Rio Olympics.
The video of the moment she was told she was on the podium in Rio went viral as Fu struggled to contain her emotions.