BUDAPEST, Hungary, July 29, (Agencies): Caeleb Dressel became the first swimmer to win three gold medals on a single night at the world championships Saturday.
America’s newest star pulled off a stunning triple play, racing three times over the course of about two hours — and winning every time.
He started with a victory in the 50-meter freestyle, came back about a half-hour later to nearly break Michael Phelps’ world record in the 100 butterfly, and closed the night by leading off a world-record performance in the mixed 4×100 free relay.
“Man, that was a lot of fun,” the 20-year-old Floridian said.
Dressel now has six gold medals in the championships, putting him in position to tie Phelps’ record of seven golds at the 2007 worlds in Melbourne, Australia. He will close the meet Sunday night on the 4×100 medley relay team.
“Two more laps to go,” Dressel said with a smile.
He even managed to overshadow Katie Ledecky, who won her fifth gold medal of the meet by cruising to victory in the 800 free. Yet Budapest will be remembered as bit of a disappointment for the star of the 2016 Olympics, who settled for silver in the 200 free and didn’t come close to breaking any of her personal bests.
Ledecky won in 8 minutes, 12.68 seconds, which was nearly 8 seconds off her world record at last summer’s Rio Games.
“I’ve never walked away from a season completely satisfied, even last year,” she said. “I can really take what I’ve learned and use it moving forward. It gets me really excited. If that was my bad year for the next four years, then the next couple years are going to be pretty exciting.”
Dressel has emerged as the breakout performer of the championships, with a bit of help from the relatively new mixed relays. Two of his golds came in events that feature men and women on the same team.
The Americans romped to another world record in the mixed free relay. Dressel led off with blistering time of 47.22 for the first 100 — even more remarkable given his grueling night — and his three teammates took it from there.
Nathan Adrian, Mallory Comerford and Simone Manuel finished off a time of 3:19.60, crushing the world record of 3:23.05 set by the Americans at the 2015 championships in Kazan.
“That last relay was a lot of fun,” Dressel said. “I wanted to lead it off even though it meant less to get ready for it. It was such a blast.”
The whole night was.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won the women’s 50m butterfly gold to complete the sprint double.
Sjostrom clocked 24.60 seconds, a new championships record, to take gold with Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands taking silver at 0.78 back while Egypt’s Farida Osman earned bronze at 0.79.
Swedish sprinter Sjostrom completed the butterfly double after winning the women’s 100m gold on Monday, also in a record time for the world championships.
It went some way to make up for her disappointment of missing out on gold by just 0.04 in the women’s 100m freestyle final on Friday night when she lost to Simone Manuel of the United States on the wall.
“I had a great start, I’ve been longing for this 50 race all week,” said Sjostorm.
“I was really disappointed before this final, I needed just to get it going again.
“I’ve been really strong at the beginning of the races, so I knew it could be good I was looking forward to it.”
America-born Osman was delighted with her first major medal.
“I’m really happy with that — it was my goal for the whole season,” said the 22-year-old University of California student.
“It’s a really nice feeling.”
Emily Seebohm of Australia broke down after retaining the women’s 200m backstroke gold to make up for her disappointment at last year’s Olympics.
Seebohm clocked two minutes, 05.68 seconds with Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu taking silver at 0.17sec and Kathleen Baker of the United States earning bronze at 0.80.
The 25-year-old Seebohm wept when she realised she had won after a superb burst in the final 50 metres saw her hold off home-crowd favourite Hosszu.
“I was very proud of myself, no matter if I won or lost, I’m just really honoured to be in such a fantastic field and so quick as well,” said Seebohm, who won bronze in the women’s 100m backstroke on Tuesday despite suffering from a mild cold.
“It’s really good to be here and representing Australia again.”
Seebohm thanked friends and family, especially partner Mitch Larkin, who supported her through a difficult period after last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics when she failed to get on the podium in either the 100m or 200m backstroke.
“I’m really proud of what I achieved after the struggles that I’ve been through, it’s really great to have such support here from my friends, my family and from Mitch as well,” said Seebohm.
“I felt pretty relieved when I touched the wall — honoured and proud.
“Getting back into the pool after Rio was really hard, everything that I’ve gone through, it just proves to myself that it wasn’t me.
“That Rio experience was just one of those things that happens in life, sometimes you’ve got to go down to go back up.”
Rhiannan Iffland became the first ever high diver from Australia to win gold on the penultimate day of the meet in Budapest on Saturday.
The 25-year-old also became the youngest ever world champion in the event, as well as the first non-American champion.
Iffland scored 320.70 points ahead of Mexico’s Adriana Jimenez (308.90), who finished fourth in 2015, and Yana Nestsiarava of Belarus (303.95), who matched her bronze from two years ago.
The spectacular diving tower was erected on the river Danube in the Hungarian capital opposite the parliament building.
“It’s been an amazing couple of days, getting up to that amazing platform, amazing facility that they put together for us,” Iffland told reporters.
In 2013 Cesilie Carlton, who came sixth this time, won the event, while Rachelle Simpson took gold in 2015.