By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Friday, July 28, 2017
BUDAPEST – Last year, Simone Manuel shocked the swimming world when she tied Penny Oleksiak of Canada for Olympic gold in the women’s 100m freestyle, beating out the heavily favored Aussie, Cate Campbell, in the process.
Despite that gold medal, Manuel found herself in the role of underdog spoiler once again Friday at the 17th FINA world Championships, capturing gold in an American record time of 52.27.
Manuel surged past Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom in the last 10 meters of the race for the win. Sjostrom, who set the world record of 51.71 leading off Sweden’s 400m freestyle relay on the first night of competition, was the odd-on favorite heading into tonight’s finals.
“I think I always have a shot,” Manuel said. “I think that’s why I’m the swimmer that I am. I just know how to race, and I try to get my hand on the wall first. I just had confidence in the training I had done and my performance going into the race.”
Manuel became the first American to win a medal in the women’s 100m free at a World Championships since 2005, when Natalie Coughlin took silver. She is the first American to win gold since Jenny Thompson in 1998.
“I was 2 at the time,” Manuel said of Thompson’s gold medal. “But it’s great to bring American sprinting to the forefront, along with Mallory and others who are just really amazing swimmers. We’re trying to make a statement as sprinters.”
In addition to her gold tonight, Manuel has also won gold in the 400m free relay and the mixed 400m medley relay this week.
“I think that my path in swimming has just been progressing forward,” Manuel said. “It happened at the right time, and I’m really happy with that, and I’m really hoping that trend can continue on through my swimming career.”
A double medal still eludes the American women on the World Championship stage in this event. Manuel’s teammate, Mallory Comerford, finished fourth in 52.77. Comerford was the American record-holder in the 100m free, having set that mark at last month’s Phillips 66 National Championships and World Championship Trials in 52.59.
Competing in her first World Championships, Comerford has had quite a meet, winning gold in the 400m free relay, the mixed 400m medley relay and the 800m free relay.
Men’s 200m Back
Ryan Murphy won his third medal of the meet Friday, taking silver in the men’s 200m back in 1:54.21 and touching just ahead of teammate Jacob Pebley, who took bronze in 1:55.06.
Murphy also won bronze in the 100m back and gold in the mixed 400m medley relay, where he helped set a world record in prelims. An impressive haul by most standards, to be sure, but Murphy expressed a little disappointment in his meet so far.
“It’s not really my season, to be totally honest” said Murphy, who won three gold medals in last year’s Olympic Games and set a world record in the 100m back. “I think – without a doubt – no one’s going to outwork me these next three years. I think that might have been the case this year. I mean, I went to practice, I worked hard, but I didn’t have that same level of focus, that same amount of motivation to be great.
“I think that’s what’s going to come out of this meet – that I’m not the best backstroker in the world at this point, and that’s a title I want, so I’m going to do everything I can to get that back.”
Women’s 200m Breast
Swimming in her first major international competition, Bethany Galat came in with certain expectations, but she exceeded them all Friday, winning silver in the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:21.77. Teammate Lilly King finished fourth in 2:22.11.
“I was very nervous to make it to finals, and medaling – can you ask for more, really? So of course, I’m very excited with my results,” Galat said. “I think it’s important to be confident in yourself and be confident in your training.
“When people believe in you, that’s very strong. The people who believe in me really give me the confidence to just control my nerves and swim my own race.”
King has won gold in the 100m free and the mixed 400m free relay already this week. Her fourth-place finish tonight was a big improvement over her 12th-place showing in Rio last year.
Men’s 800m Free Relay
The men’s 800m free relay of Blake Pieroni, Townley Haas, Jack Conger and Zane Grothe finished with a bronze in 7:03.18. Great Britain was first in 7:01.70, followed by Russia in 7:02.68.
It was the third medal of the meet for Haas, who won gold in the 400m free relay and silver in the 200m free. Pieroni also won gold in the 400m free relay, but failed to qualify for the finals of the 200m free. He was happy with his performance tonight.
“I’m always trying to go as fast as I can every race, but these guys being behind me and wearing the flag for a relay just gives you something extra,” Pieroni said.
Before taking silver in 2015, the U.S. had won gold in five straight World Championships in this event.
“I’m always happy with a medal,” Pieroni said. “Obviously, we always want to be first, but everyone on this relay tonight, this is our first World Championships, and I think we have a lot of potential in years to come.”
“Third place isn’t exactly where we want to be, but we’re still early on in the quad (before the Olympics) and we’ll get to where we want to be in 2020,” Conger said.
Men’s 200m Breast
Other Americans swimming in tonight’s finals included Nic Fink and Kevin Cordes, who finished fifth and sixth in the men’s 200m breaststroke in 2:08.56 and 2:08.68.
American swimmers broke a couple records that may have gone overlooked in semifinals. Caeleb Dressel broke the American record in the men’s 50m free, turning in a time of 21.29 and qualifying for the top seed in tomorrow night’s finals. The former mark stood at 21.37, set by Nathan Adrian at the 2015 World Championships.
Regan Smith set a world junior record in the women’s 200m back in 2:07.19. Smith, 15, is the youngest member of the U.S. squad competing in Budapest.
The top eight swimmers in tonight’s semifinals advance to tomorrow night’s finals. Here’s how American swimmers fared in each event:
- Kathleen Baker, 3rd, women’s 200m back, 2:06.66
- Regan Smith, 5th, women’s 200m back, 2:07.19, World Junior Record
- Caeleb Dressel, 1st, men’s 50m freestyle, 21.29, American Record
- Nathan Adrian, 10th, men’s 50m free, 21.83
- Dressel, 1st, men’s 100m butterfly, 50.07
- Kelsi Worrell, 2nd, women’s 50m butterfly, 25.57
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.