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Yang, Franklin and Ledecky the stars of World Championships

August 5, 2013
Katie Ledecky and Sun Yang (Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky and Sun Yang (Getty Images)

As always in an event of this magnitude, the World Swimming Championships, which finished on Sunday in Barcelona, have given us a set of athletes whose names deserve to be remembered for a long time to come.

A set of swimmers have written their names in bold letters above all the others in the event, while others also deserve a more than honorable mention.

Given that some have competed in more events than others, it is tough to say who has been the best of the bunch, but for the sheer quantity of her medal haul, it would be hard not to put Missy Franklin at the top of the list. The 18-year old American announced her arrival on the world stage with four gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games and came to Barcelona chasing an incredible 8 golds.

The intensity of the calendar made that virtually impossible, as shown by her withdrawal from the 50-meters backstroke to concentrate on the final of the 200 meters freestyle, which she won, but an eventual haul of six gold medals was historic given that no woman had ever won five in a single world championships.

Katie Ledecky is another of the American young guns. She had announced her arrival with a spectacular gold in the 800 meters freestyle in London and in Barcelona she knocked six seconds of the fastest ever time in the 1,500 meters freestyle on the way to one of four gold medals. The 16 year-old won the 400 and the 800 meters freestyle golds as well as forming part of the successful 4×200 meter relay squad and set a new world record in the 800 meters freestyle for good measure.

It was no surprise she was named by FINA as the best female swimmer of the meet.

The best male swimmer was China’s Sun Yang, who showed that he is currently just about unbeatable in long distance events. Sun won gold in 400, 800 and 1,500 meters freestyle, but perhaps his most memorable swim was in the last leg of the 4×200 meters relay when he entered the pool in fifth place, two seconds off a medal position and swum China into bronze.

It would be fascinating to see him try for gold in 200, 400, 800 and 1,500, although once again calendar issues may make it impossible.

Ryan Lochte‘s performance of Friday night deserves mention alone as he won gold in the 200 meters backstroke, followed it up with the fastest qualifying time in the 100 meter butterfly and then swam a devastating second leg as the American’s took gold in the 4×200 meters freestyle relay. Those two gold medals, collected within an hour of each other were added to the gold he retained in the 200 meter individual medley the day before to give him a total of 15 gold medals from World Championships.

It would have been 16 had the American 4×100 medley relay team was disqualified through no fault of his, and it is hard to think that the week started badly as the US team failed to win the 4×100 freestyle relay and he finished fourth in the 200 meters freestyle.

And special mention should also go to Chad Le Clos: the 200 meters butterfly gold medalist in London, doubled up in Barcelona, adding the 200 meter butterfly gold to his Olympic triumph before becoming the first person other than Michael Phelps to win the world 100 butterfly title since Michael Phelps won his first crown in 2003. Could Le Clos be the true heir to Phelps’ crown?

In a championship which saw six new world records: special mention must also go to Ruta Meilutyte. The young Lithuanian, who trains in England won gold in the 100 meters breaststroke and set a new world record and broke the 50 meters breaststroke record in the semifinal of the event, although she had to be content with silver in that event after Yuliana Efimova beat her by 0.07 of a second to take a 50 and 200 meters breaststroke double.

Meanwhile Denmark’s Rikke Pederson, set a new 200 meters breaststroke record in the semifinal, only to lose to Efimova in the final.

Yannick Agnel and the rest of the French sprint team also produced some fine racing with Agnel winning the 200 meters freestyle gold and Camille Lacourt becoming the first ever French world champion in the 50 meters backstroke. They won the 4×100 medley title following the disqualification of the US team.

Indeed the French ended with more gold medals (4) than the Australians, although the Aussies will take consolation that the three individual gold medals they won in Barcelona were three more than they won in London 2012.

Overall, Barcelona saw six new world records: two of those set in the women’s 50 meters breaststroke, one in the women’s 100 meters breaststroke, another in women’s 200 meters breaststroke and Ledecky’s new times in the 800 and 1,500 freestyle

As always, when there are successes, there are also disappointments: France’s Camille Muffat will be disappointed with just one medal, while Ye Shiwen, who won the 200 and 400 meters individual medley gold medals in London, was only able to finish fourth and seventh in her two events, perhaps affected by the pressure, although aged just 17, she has plenty of time ahead of her.


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