Fukuoka, Japan: Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania set her second world record in as many days in the women’s 50 metres breaststroke, powering to the gold medal in a superb time of 29.16 seconds on the final day of swimming action at the World Aquatics Championships on Sunday.
Meilutyte obliterated the record of 29.30 seconds that she had jointly held with Benedetta Pilato of Italy, after setting that mark in the semi-finals on Saturday and she sent out a warning to her rivals ahead of next year’s Paris Olympics.
“I’m happy,” Meilutyte said. “I definitely felt it was possible. I’m enjoying the process along the way.” She was 0.78 seconds ahead of silver medallist Lilly King of the United States. Pilato took bronze in 30.04 seconds.
Sjoestroem breaks record
Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestroem had broken her own world record in the women’s 50m freestyle semi-finals in a time of 23.61 seconds a day earlier and the 29-year-old was almost as quick in the final to claim gold in style.
Sjoestroem finished only one hundredth of a second away from her blistering effort for the record to beat Australia’s Shayna Jack, who clocked 24.10.
“I’m super happy with that. It was very busy yesterday, with the world record and the gold medal,” said Sjoestroem, who won a fifth straight world title in the 50m butterfly on Saturday.
Sjoestroem’s freestyle victory meant the evergreen swimmer went past American great Michael Phelps with her 21st individual medal at the worlds.
Zhang Yufei took bronze in 24.15 to further swell China’s medal tally.
Ahmed Hafnaoui ensured a second gold of the meeting for Tunisia after edging past Bobby Finke of the United States in a fiercely contested men’s 1,500m freestyle race.
He finished in 14 minutes 31.54 seconds to miss out on Sun Yang’s world record of 14:31.02. Finke was a mere 0.05 seconds behind the champion and Australia’s Sam Short, who led for the first half of the race, settled for bronze.
“I think I deserve it,” said Hafnaoui. “Bobby is so fast in the end of the race, he pushed us. “It was so close to the world record. I enjoyed the race. Thanks to Bobby for pushing me.” Hunter Armstrong had got the US off to a golden start on the final day of swimming at the Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall as he wrapped up the men’s 50m backstroke title to secure his first individual crown.
The 22-year-old touched the wall in 24.05 seconds, 0.19 seconds ahead of compatriot Justin Ress with China’s Xu Jiayu taking bronze after finishing 0.45 seconds behind the winner.
McIntosh too good
Canada’s world record-holder Summer McIntosh proved too good for the field in the women’s 400m individual medley, roaring to gold in a championship record time of 4:27.11 for her second victory at the meeting and fourth world title overall.
“Going into tonight, I just wanted to see how hard I could push myself seeing as the 400m individual medley is such a hard event,” said the 16-year-old McIntosh, who also prevailed in 200m butterfly to match her haul from Budapest last year.
“It’s very strategic, so just learning more and more each time I swim.” American Katie Grimes took silver after finishing more than four seconds away, while Australia’s Jenna Forrester had to be content with bronze.
The US men’s and women’s teams powered to victory in the 4x100m medley relays as the swimming heavyweights ensured a strong finish to the championships after disappointing displays by some of their compatriots earlier in the week.
The men’s quartet of Ryan Murphy, Nic Fink, Dare Rose and Jack Alexy clocked 3:27.20 to edge China and Australia into second and third place.
The American women then rode on strong performances by Regan Smith, King, Gretchen Walsh and Kate Douglass to cruise home in 3:52.08 ahead of Australia and Canada.
Australia finished the meeting with 13 golds to top the table, ahead of the United States who had seven while China were third with five.
The next edition of the worlds will be hosted by Doha in February 2024.