By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Wednesday, July 26, 2017
BUDAPEST – The United States won gold in the mixed 400m medley relay Wednesday at the 17th FINA World Championships, the team of Matt Grevers, Lilly King, Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel setting a world record with a time of 3:38.56.
This year marks the second time this race has been swum at a World Championships. The first time around, in 2015, there was an air of novelty to the race. This year, however, it takes on new importance, as it has been added to the slate of Olympic events in Tokyo 2020.
“Before it was just like, ‘OK, it’s just a World Championships event. It’s not an Olympic event, so it’s not that big of a deal,’” King said. “But now it is (an Olympic event), so we’ve really been putting a lot more thought into it. It’s more than just who has the fastest swimmers. It’s who has the best strategy. There are many more factors that go into it.”
In fact, the U.S. approached the race with two different strategies.
In this morning’s prelims, the Americans put the men up front, with Ryan Murphy and Kevin Cordes swimming back and breast; and the women in the back half, with Kelsi Worrell and Mallory Comerford swimming the fly and free.
The result? A world record in 3:40.28. Had that group swum tonight, they would have finished second only to their teammates in the final. Australia was second in 3:41.21, and Canada was third in 3:41.25.
“I think the coaches just really put all our splits together and tried to figure out the fastest combination,” Grevers said. “Someone said (the prelims and finals teams) were within one-hundredth of a second (on paper) before they swam their prelims and before we swam the finals.
“It’s pretty cool that we could have had two separate relays and gone 1-2. That just shows the awesome depth of the USA. We went two world records today with eight different people. I don’t know how often that happens.”
In tonight’s finals, Grevers got the team out to the lead, and King kept them in contact with the rest of the field in the breaststroke leg. Dressel then dove in and swam a blistering 49.92 in the butterfly to set Manuel up for the finish.
“I just wanted to do my part on these relays, and it was a lot of fun swimming with the girls,” Dressel said. “Everyone did really, really well. Matt was faster than he was in the finals (of the 100m back), and Lilly was 1:04.1. I didn’t see Simone’s split, but I didn’t think we were going to go faster than the prelim swimmers did.”
The relay’s gold was one of two medals for the U.S. on day 4.
In what has become an occasion as rare as a verified Bigfoot sighting, Katie Ledecky finished second in the women’s 200m freestyle Wednesday, tying Emma McKeon of Australia for silver in 1:55.18.
In 13 races so far in three World Championships, tonight’s race is the only one in which she’s finished with anything less than gold over the course of her career. In fact, the only other race on the international stage in which she’s finished second is the 400m free relay at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio.
So far, her record in major international competitions – including two Olympic Games, a Pan Pacific Championship and three World Championships – is 22 gold and two silver medals.
That’s a .917 winning percentage. Let that sink in a bit.
Tonight’s silver in the 200 brings her career total to 13 medals overall on the World stage, ranking her 6th all-time in the world, and fourth among American women, behind Natalie Coughlin (20), Missy Franklin (16) and Jenny Thomspon (14).
In addition to her silver in the 200m free tonight, Ledecky has also won gold in the 400m free, 1500m free and 400m free relay so far this week.
Given her success over the years, one might wonder if Ledecky’s feeling the weight of the expectations people have of her whenever she races. She said that’s definitely not the case.
“Maybe I haven’t been as on point as I would have hoped this week, but I’ve still been feeling good, and I think that was mostly a matter of how I executed my race,” Ledecky said. “It wasn’t anything too wrong or anything additional to that. I think I’m still learning over the years and over the months how to manage those expectations, but I don’t think any of that had any effect on me.”
Ledecky, the defending World and Olympic champion in the 200m free, said she just couldn’t find that extra gear she usually has in the final leg of tonight’s race. As she and McKeon battled head-to-head down the homestretch, Federica Pellegrini out-touched them both at the wall in 1:54.73.
“I just try to stay focused on my own race plan, and try to execute that the best I can,” Ledecky said. “It didn’t quite go as I had hoped, and yesterday (in semifinals) was obviously faster, so I’ll review the race video and see where I kind of slipped up. But that’s some good motivation for moving forward.”
Ledecky still has two events left this week, including the 800m free relay tomorrow, and the 800m free on Saturday.
Her teammate, Leah Smith, finished sixth tonight in the 200m free in 1:56.06. Like Ledecky, Smith has a full schedule here in Budapest. She won silver behind Ledecky in the 400m freestyle, and will compete in the 800m free relay, the 800m free and the 400m IM in the next four days.
In other events, American Jack Conger finished fifth in the men’s 200m IM in 1:54.88; Kevin Cordes finished fifth in the men’s 50m free in 26.80; and Jack Conger finished eighth in the men’s 800m free in 7:52.43.
Americans competing in Wednesday night’s semifinals included Caeleb Dressel in the men’s 100m freestyle (2nd, 47.66); Nathan Adrian in the men’s 100m freestyle (3rd, 47.85); Kathleen Baker in the women’s 50m backstroke (3rd, 27.48); Hannah Stevens in the women’s 50m backstroke (9th, 27.63); Hali Flickinger in the women’s 200m butterfly (9th, 2:07.89); Dakota Luther in the women’s 200m butterfly (15th, 2:09.55); Chase Kalisz in the men’s 200m IM (1st, 1:55.88); and Abrahm DeVine in the men’s 200m IM (10th, 1:58.01).
The top eight swimmers in each semifinal will advance to tomorrow night’s finals.
For more expert analysis and insight from the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, catch Deck Pass Live, right here on usaswimming.org. The show begins approximately one hour after finals. Also, follow our coverage from Hungary on Facebook and Twitter. #DeckPassLive.