While many old hands conserved energy in yesterday morning’s relaxed round of heats in Budapest, several teenagers were prepared to roil the waters in the second day of the FINA World Championships.
Romanian 17-year-old David Popovici attacked from the start of his 200m freestyle heat and finished easily fastest in qualifying in 1 minute, 45.18 seconds. South Korean Hwang Sunwoo, who is 19, was 0.61 seconds behind, followed by Austrian Felix Auboeck, who was fourth in Saturday’s 400m free final.
Briton Tom Dean, the Olympic champion, was next. Saturday’s 400m top two, Australian Elijah Winnington and German Lukas Martens qualified comfortably.
In contrast, Katie Ledecky was in energy-saving mode, as she won her heat in the longest pool event, the 1,500m, in 15 minutes, 47.02 seconds.
That was almost 27 seconds outside her world record, but more than nine seconds ahead of the next-best swimmer, Italian Simona Quadrella.
Ledecky on Saturday started the the championships with a gold by reclaiming her title in the women’s 400m, finishing in 3 minutes, 58.15 seconds — nearly two seconds off the world record — for her fourth world title in the event after 2013, 2015 and 2017.
US team finished the first day with two gold, one silver and three bronze.
Ariarne Titmus pipped Ledecky to the title in 2019 and took her world record last month, but the Australian has skipped the worlds to focus on the Commonwealth Games next month in England.
“It’s great to get the first gold medal for the US team,” said Ledecky, who said she is working on reclaiming her record, too. “I’m on the right track.”
Winning the 400 gave Ledecky her 16th gold at a worlds and 18th overall. She is just one behind Natalie Coughlin for the most all-time medals by a female swimmer in world championships history.
Leon Marchand on Saturday won gold for France with a dominant display in the men’s 400m medley.
The 20-year-old Marchand thrilled spectators in the Hungarian capital with a European record, as he almost took Michael Phelps’ world record.
Marchand’s time of 4:04.28 was the second-fastest ever swum after Phelps’ 4:03.84 at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
It also meant he became the second French swimmer to win a medal in an individual medley at a worlds after his father Xavier Marchand, who won silver in the men’s 200m medley in Perth in 1998.
“It’s very special because my dad supported me every day. He gave me so much advice about swimming, about just everything. I`m just very happy to bring him this medal and, yes, we keep going, this swimming family,” said Marchand, who referred to valuable lessons learned from his father.
“He told me very early that swimming is very hard. To be at this level today, you need to train a lot. You need to be quite serious and just dedicated to swimming.”
The mentality suits Marchand and his family.
“Because they have to wake up with me every day to bring me to training,” he said with a laugh.
Marchand also races for Arizona State University, where he is coached by Bob Bowman, who also coached Phelps.
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