By Peter Rutherford
GWANGJU, South Korea (Reuters) – Three of the most dominant swimmers in the world took centre stage at the world championships on Monday but only Adam Peaty and Katinka Hosszu maintained their aura of invincibility while Sarah Sjostrom’s reign in the 100m butterfly came to an end.
A night after becoming the first swimmer to go under the ‘Magic 57’ mark in the men’s 100 metres breaststroke, Peaty cruised to his third straight gold in the event, though his time — 57.14 — was off his world record of 56.88 set in Sunday’s semis.
“I’m very happy, but … there is (also) a little bit of disappointment in me, but I think that’ll fuel me for next year as I want to go even faster – for now though, I’ll enjoy the moment,” he said.
With team mate James Wilby taking the silver, Peaty said Britain was setting the bar in the breaststroke.
“It’s looking like Britain is a stronghold for breaststroke and it has been for a long time now,” he said.
No less dominant is Hosszu, who cruised to her fourth world title in the 200m individual medley in a time of 2:07.53. China’s Ye Shiwen took the silver and Canada’s Sydney Pickrem the bronze.
It has been a turbulent year for the Hungarian. The Olympic champion at both the 200 and 400m split from her husband and coach Shane Tusup in 2018 and she said the victory on Monday was her reward for a “tough journey”.
“From the outside it might seem just another gold medal but obviously for me it’s definitely special to be here and being able to win this title,” she added.
Sjostrom had no excuses for her defeat in the 100m butterfly as she saw Canadian 19-year-old Margaret MacNeil end her run of three straight victories at the worlds.
“I wish I could complain and say I got water in my goggles or something like that but I actually had a pretty good race with good turns, good start,” said the 25-year-old Swede.
“It’s just the back-end speed, but maybe that’s just age.”
MacNeil said she had just been hoping for a medal and to beat Sjostrom to gold was “really unbelievable”.
“She congratulated me and was just super-nice and so great and I have looked up to her forever so it means the world.”
With the swimming world still debating Mack Horton’s refusal to share a podium with Sun Yang on Sunday over the Chinese swimmer’s doping history, FINA said it had warned the Australian over his protest.
While other swimmers at the world championships applauded his stance, the 23-year-old has received death threats from Chinese fans on social media over his protest.
“Obviously death threats on something like this is pretty insane,” said American Lilly King. “He is standing up for the right reason so I’m sure Australia would take care of him.”
Caeleb Dressel became the first American to win the men’s 50 butterfly at the world championships, and while the event continues to have a low profile in the United States he said it was slowly gaining traction.
“The 50 strokes are a little weird in the United States,” he added. “We are starting to do them more and more but it’s not really a thing.
“I guess it’s good we got one guy in there, I’m glad it was me.”
(Additional reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)