Budapest: After three years in turbulent waters, swimming starts to regain some stability with an extra edition of its long-course world championships in Budapest starting on Saturday.
On the podium, some continuity is assured as two American 25-year-old stars, Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky continue their relentless pursuit of medals.
As in other sports, the Covid pandemic caused chaos with the global swimming calendar, with its world championships in odd-numbered years.
Covid delayed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics a year and the world championships, also in Japan at Fukuoka, were initially put back to this May and then to July 2023. To fill the gaps in their schedule, and coffers, world swimming’s governing body FINA wants to move the theoretical 2023 championships to January 2024 in Doha, Qatar, and has added a special edition for this year.
For these reboot championships, FINA opted to return to Hungary, where swimming is big and which hosted the event in 2017.
While these changes to swimming’s rhythms, along with the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the lingering impact of the pandemic continue to muddy the waters, Budapest promises some stellar showdowns.
Dressel could chase seven golds. yet he told a US video interviewer Graham Bensinger that he “felt so lost” after winning five in Tokyo in part because he had not hit his target times. “I wanted to get away from the water, but then that’s also one of my safe places. So it was, again, a rock and hard place. Yeah, it was a pretty miserable couple months,” he said.
Ledecky has 10 Olympic medals and 18 in the world championships. She says she’s ready for this out-of-sequence event. “I don’t feel like this snuck up on me or that it was a shorter year or anything like that,” she told NBCSports.
Ledecky will enter one fewer race after deciding to drop her shortest distance, the 200m freestyle. “I definitely have always been somebody that’s valued quality of swims over quantity and medals,” she told US media. “I’ve never set goals for a certain number of medals or certain records like that.”
Ledecky should grab the first gold of the championships on the opening evening in the 400m free. The question is whether she can reclaim her world record from Ariarne Titmus, who broke it at the Australian trials in May.
Titmus, who won the 400m in Tokyo, has chosen to skip the World Championships to focus on the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham starting at the end of July.