By Neil Leverett
- Britain’s Adam Peaty takes home three Golds from Swimming World Championships, in Gwangju, South Korea
- American Caeleb Dressel lights up meet with eight medals, including six world titles in the pool
- Team GB’s men’s 4x100m medley relay team sensationally beat the US on final day of Championships
GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA – After Adam Peaty continued his breaststroke legacy in South Korea, what did we learn from eight days of the 2019 World Swimming Championships?
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Before the 2019 World Swimming Championships began eight days ago in Gwanju, South Korea, the consensus was Adam Peaty merely had to turn up and not get disqualified, to again leave yet another meet with another Golden medal haul.
Easier said than done perhaps, but having left Asia with three more world titles to his collection, the 24-year-old Uttoxeter man has now taken his tally of world golds to eight – just five years after bursting onto the scene at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow..
Having continued his men’s breaststroke reign this summer – completing the 3-peat- many are now asking how far the Briton could go in his career. With the Olympics in Tokyo now just 12 months away, Peaty is already considered an unbeatable man in looking to retain his throne from Rio four years ago, but what might follow that?
Holding almost every record standing in his discipline – with world records in the 50m and 100m – and having clocked sub-26-second and 57-second times respectively, Peaty is still leaving his opponents in his rather watery dust and providing he can stay hungry for further accolades, is not far off already becoming one of the greats of the pool.
GB relay Lions
Peaty’s final gold of the week was as part of GB’s stunning men’s 4×100 medley team as he, backstroke Bronze medalist Luke Greenbank, James Guy and Duncan Scott swam the race of their collective lives to sensationally overhaul the United States in the final metres, and close out the worlds’ in golden fashion.
Whilst again individual performance may have fallen short, GB’s performance in the relays have always seen quartets reach the heights and in Gwangju that was no less true.
Indeed, as the men’s 4x200m freestyle four had only days earlier surrendered their title they had held across both Kazan in 2015 and two years ago in Budapest, Peaty and co. were bent on winning one relay gold back – doing so in scintillating style.
With the US team having been unbeaten in the race since they were controversially disqualified in Barcelona in 2013, GB went one better than 2017, as Scott’s stunning final leg brought his team home.
Scott in particular would have felt huge satisfaction after taking bronze in the individual event, but after arguably being affected by his medal ceremony altercation with China’s Sun Yang – felt the effects of their spat for the rest of the week in Gwangju.
Guy also, having had a disappointing meet, again upped his game for the relay and taking over from Peaty’s surge from the back of the pack after Greenbank’s anchor leg, the Bury man performed when it mattered for his team.
Dressel may eclipse Phelps
Outside of the their shock relay defeat to Brits, it was another week dominated by the US team who took home 14 gold medals to their name – nine ahead of closest rivals Australia with five.
Having announced his arrival on the world stage in Budapest two years ago winning seven golds, Caeleb Dressel again showed he is more than able to fill the trunks of Michael Phelps, as the 22-year-old from Florida claimed six more golds in South Korea.
Indeed, after setting a single meet record of taking home eight separate medals in Gwangju, Dressel could now go on to surpass the 23-time Olympic champion.
That number may seem a tall feat, but with two already under his belt – albeit relay honours – Dressel will be looking at next summer in Tokyo to go close if not equal Phelps’ record-breaking eight golds during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, when Phelps broke Mark Spitz‘s record of seven in the Games of 1972.
Having joked he ‘throws away’ his old medals irrespective of colour, Dressel’s approach is refreshingly lithe in the sport, and is further evidence that the Floridian could become very special indeed in the coming years, indeed usurp Phelps as one of the GOAT.
Sun cloud remains
Despite a meet of sensational swims, and scintillating performances that have close to exhausted all superlatives, amidst a sport in perhaps its’ rudest health, swimming like most high performance competition remains dogged by scandal.
Sun – banned in 2014 for the use of trimetazidine relating to a heart condition – was allowed to compete in Gwangju despite a report in the Sunday Times claiming doping samples relating to the Chinese athlete were smashed in front of testers in 2018. Sun was allowed to compete based on findings that said testers were not accredited to carry out such methods.
Winning both the 200 and 400m freestyle in South Korea – the former after Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys was DQd for a technical false-start – Sun was involved in medal ceremony disputes with both Scott and Australia’s Mack Horton.
Horton and Sun have never seen eye to eye after their altercation at the Rio Olympics, but it was Briton, Scott, who was the latest to feel the ire of the Sun, standing apart from the Gold medalist on the podium, leading the two men to engage in words as Sun called Scott ‘a loser’. The threat of cheating continues to linger elsewhere also.
Lilly King and Yulija Efimova resumed their spat, following the Russian’s multiple positive testing for banned substances, but the Australian squad have been hit by their own dark cloud, with Shayna Jack having been withdrawn from competition – preemptively – as a result of an adverse sample.
Aside from the controversies surrounding Sun, and in modern high-performance sport, swimming is not immune from the shadow of alleged doping, which is fast becoming a thorny issue for FINA.
GB can deliver in Tokyo
Whilst GB may have finished with two less golds than in Budapest and Kazan respectively, despite a number of disappointing individual performances, the British squad are still on course for perhaps their most promising Olympic meet to date next summer in Japan.
Taking away Peaty’s gold and five silvers from Rio in 2016, the progress of those aside from Scott and Greenbank in winning individual medals in Gwangju, point to a potential haul in 2020.
Georgia Davies finished fourth in the 50m back, but remains amongst the fastest in the world over the distance, whilst James Wilby‘s silver next to Peaty in the men’s breaststroke could see a remarkable 1-2 in Japan.
As former World junior champion in 2017, Freya Anderson‘s freestyle learning curve continues and despite being some way behind defending Olympic champion Simone Manuel, Sara Sjostrom and Cate Campbell, could, with a strong winter of training behind her challenge.
The worlds’ has always been seen as the third step on the four-year Olympic arc by Head Coach Bill Furniss, and with the XXXII Olympiad now coming into view, Tokyo could see Team GB reap the rewards.
The XXXII Olympic Games take place in Tokyo, Japan, between July 24 and August 9 2020.
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