Five things we learnt from the FINA World Championships

 

By Neil Leverett

  • Adam Peaty successfully defended double World breaststroke titles in Budapest
  • Ben Proud seals stunning 50m butterfly Gold
  • British team take home four gold medals from Duna Arena
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY –  Adam Peaty underlines the continuing rise of British Swimming, as team finishes second on the medal table, winning four golds at the World Championships.

 

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British rising success continues in Hungary

The rise of British swimming continued apace in Hungary last week, as the 27- strong squad brought home seven medals from their tally in Budapest.

Despite a total of two less than the previous World Championships in Kazan, Russia two years ago, the winning of three individual titles – and one relay win – represents a huge success in terms of the progress, of what Head Coach Bill Furniss states as ‘the start of a cycle’.

British success was punctuated in Hungary by another double success for Golden boy Adam Peaty, but what else did we learn from the 2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships?

 

Peaty set to dominate for years

Look up ‘poster boy of British sport’ right now and the picture of Peaty will appear. Having successfully defended both the 50 and 100 metres breaststroke World titles he won in Kazan, Russia two years ago – still basking in Olympic glory from last summer – the Briton is riding high.

The Uttoxeter man continues to tear up the record books each time he enters a swimming pool. In the space of just three years, Peaty has won sixteen major titles.

Remaining under the tutelage of coach Mel Marshall at Loughborough University, Peaty to his huge credit still remains as down to earth and humble as that same boy that first dipped a toe in the pool at the age of nine.

Talk of Peaty adding the 200 metres breaststroke to his repertoire is perhaps premature, but even without that, the swimming world is seemingly his oyster. Not bad for a kid who was afraid of water.

 

British swimming in rude health

Aside from Peaty, British hopes are in fine fettle. Ben Proud‘s failure to medal at Rio last year have been firmly consigned to history, following his sensational Gold in the 50 metres butterfly. The reigning Commonwealth champion added a World title to his list of achievements, beating a field including Caeleb Dressel, Joseph Schooling and Nicholas Santos to Budapest glory.

James Guy was dethroned by China’s Sun as documented, but before the week was out, the 21 year-old would have his day. The Bury swimmer claimed bronze in the 100 metres butterfly, but more notably helped Great Britain defend their 4×200 metres freestyle relay title with a typically stunning final leg.

The quartet of Guy, Nicholas Grainger, Duncan Scott and Stephen Milne are already a well-oiled machine, that only the United States have beaten on the one occasion in Brazil last summer. The youngest of that group is just 23 years of age.

Scott has now come agonizingly close to a major medal individually in the last two years, but his wait must surely come to an end soon. That will be no consolation either to Max Litchfield in the individual medley, who continues to finish in fourth spot.

It would be fair to say that the women had a disappointing championships with the illness of O’Connor. That said however, with almost a third of the squad still yet to reach their twenties, the future could well be bright for the ladies also.

 

‘Iron Lady’ remains on her throne

For the hosts Hungary, the World championships saw eight medals be claimed. The trio of veteran László Cseh and newcomers Dávid Verrasztó and Kristóf Milák, all took home silver medals respectively, but once again it was home favourite Katinka Hosszú who stole the show, taking half of their medal tally.

The self proclaimed ‘Iron Lady’ took Golds in both the women’s 200 and 400 metres individual medley, as well as a silver and bronze apiece, in the 200 metres backstroke and butterfly finals respectively.

After becoming a triple Olympic champion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last summer, Hosszu successfully defended her titles in Budapest last week. The 28 year-old has now held the joint World medley crowns since Barcelona in 2013.

Vociferously roared on by husband and coach Shane Tusup, Hosszu whipped up the Duna Arena into a frenzy on most evenings during the championships and seems capable of even the improbable when in the water.

With her closest rival Britain’s Siobhan-Marie O’Connor ailing during the championships, it is unclear how events may have unfolded with ‘The Bath Bullet’ with a full bill of health. Nevertheless, Hosszu, even in her relatively senior years, could still rule for a considerable while yet.

 

Asian nations may dominate in Tokyo

With Japan’s hosting of the next Olympics in Tokyo less than three years away, there are emerging signs that not only China but also the Land of the Rising Sun are set to take the swimming world by storm.

Not only did Sun Yang’s dominance in the men’s events continue – despite his well publicised controversies – with the Golden double of the 200 and 400 metres freestyle, but Xu Jiayu took the World title in the men’s 100 metres backstroke.

The 21 year-old made the step up twelve months on from Rio, where he finished behind Ryan Murphy for silver. After the American was forced to settle for third this time around, there is further evidence that points to the progress being made in Chinese swimming, before their neighbours’ home Games.

China’s youngest members of the team also stood out. 15 year-old Li Bingjie took silver in the relay, but also in the 800 metres freestyle. There is even a suggestion that she could push Katie Ledecky for Gold in Tokyo, in that same event.

The Chinese haul may have been expected, but there are signs that Japan are timing things perfectly for 2020. Four silvers and three bronzes may not represent a glowing success, however performances throughout the week suggested otherwise.

Japan’s Olympic champion Kosuke Hagino could only take silver in the men’s 200 metres medley, but the re-emergence of both Yasuhiro Koseki and most surprisingly Junya Koga – eight years after winning his last World medal in Rome – points to an Olympiad for the host nation to approach with optimism.

 

Katie Ledecky is almost untouchable

Returning to the women’s distance freestyle events, the unstoppable juggernaut that is Ledecky shows no sign of grinding to a halt.

Of the eighteen Golds the USA won in Hungary, America’s star swimmer took home five of them. Winning the triple of the 400, 800 and the endurance-testing 1500 metres, Ledecky continues to leave all in her wake.

It was only in the 200 metres freestyle, that the 20 year-old was denied a clean sweep, after the almost forgotten Italian Federica Pellegrini produced a stunning swim to win her first World title in six years.

That silver was the only blot on an almost perfect copy book over the eight days of competition. There is however now, a small chink in the armour for her opponents to exploit, especially in light of talk regarding China’s Bingjie pushing her for Tokyo Gold three years down the line.

With a Michael Phelps-esque twenty-four Gold medals in her career to date – and barely out of her teens – it really is hard to see who can stop Ledecky from becoming not just a swimming legend, but a sporting one.

The 6th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships take place in Indianapolis, USA between August 23-28.

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