The Fukuoka World Cup concluded this Sunday in a closing day that abounded in the trail of evidence about the state of water sports one year after the Games. A generation of young swimmers is emerging capable of erasing all the surviving records from the era of waterproof one-piece swimsuits, banned at the end of 2009. It is also clear that the United States, the traditional hegemonic power, is increasingly besieged by talents of other nationalities .
Saving reliefs. The 4x100m medley relay finals are the tests that most accurately define the state of swimming in the great powers. The United States prevailed thanks to the posts of its old rockers. Backstroker Ryan Murphy, 28, in the men’s team and freebreast climber Lilly King, 26, in the women’s team, used their textbook knowledge to give their teammates a decisive advantage. The two golds made up the poorest of the American participations that are remembered. Seven gold medals in online swimming are an unusual record for the North Americans, relegated to second place by Australia, which won 13 golds. If the United States is to reverse the trend at the February World Cups and the 2024 Paris Games, it will need more than its latest Phelps-era veterans.
Bowman. “Obviously we would like to have won more golds, and I think we will,” said Bob Bowman, who in Fukuoka played the dual role of head coach for the USA team and supervisor of the two champions he coaches at the University of Arizona, the Hungarian Hubert Kos and the French Léon Marchand. Between them they achieved four golds, the same ones that the entire American team won in individual events.
Two special records. Léon Marchand broke the first of the eight World Cup records in Fukuoka in 4m 02.50s: the one held by Michael Phelps since 2008 in the 400m medley (4m 3.84s). A legendary brand as well as intimidating because it was established with the help of a swimsuit that favored flotation. A mark just as tremendous as Federica Pellegrini’s 1m 52.98s in the 200m freestyle, in 2009, surpassed in Fukuoka by the Australian Mollie O’Callaghan, who won the final in 1m 52.85s. Only eight records survive from the era of the banned swimsuits: in the men’s category, the 50m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle, the 200m backstroke, and the two freestyle relays. In the female category the 200 butterfly.
Six more records. Fukuoka witnessed the fall of five other records: the 50m freestyle (Sarah Sjostrom), the 400m freestyle (Ariarne Titmus), the 50m breaststroke (Meilutyte Route), the women’s 4x100m freestyle (Australia), the women’s 4x200m freestyle (Australia), and the men’s 200m breaststroke ( Qin Haiyang).
The men in the background. The 1,500m final played on the last day registered something unusual: two swimmers stroking the record in the last 20 meters. Tunisian Ahmed Ayoub Hafnaoui, 20, won in 14m 31.54s and American Bobby Finke, 23, followed in 14m 31.59s. Sun Yang’s record (14m 31.2s) from 2012 is set. Hafnaoui will storm the 800m.
Summer McIntosh. At the age of 15, Canadian Summer McIntosh became the youngest woman to win a 400m IM World Championship since Tracy Caulkins in 1978. In Fukuoka, she repeated the Budapest feat of 2022: gold in the 400m medley and gold in the 200m butterfly. She already has the style record. If she breaks the 200m butterfly record, she will eliminate the last female record of the era of forbidden swimsuits.
Popovich. David Popovici, 18 years old, the fastest man in the world in 100m and 200m, went to Fukuoka to bathe. He admitted that he did not prepare. He did not get on the podium in either the 200m or the 100m. Even so, the erstwhile patron of sprinting, the United States, only captured one of the six medals in contention: Jack Alexy’s silver in the 100m.
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