AQUATICS Panorama: Best line from the Gwangju Worlds came from Katie Ledecky

Comedian: American Freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky

As the FINA World Aquatics Championships wrapped up in Gwangju (KOR), the best line of the meet might have been this tweet from American freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky:

It wasn’t supposed to be that way, and in Ledecky’s news conference following her sensational 800 m Free win, she gave a glimpse of what she actually expected at the 2019 Worlds:

“It wasn’t the checkpoint we wanted and wasn’t a full indication fo where I am right now but I think at the end of the day we didn’t really need this meet as a checkpoint. [Coach] Greg [Meehan] and I know that I’ve put in the best training since I’ve been at Stanford … this has been by far the best year.

“And it’s not like that training goes away. The results didn’t show this week but I can still take a lot from the training I’ve done this year. It doesn’t go away and I can take some confidence from that and move forward, take a short break and get back to training and get after it.”

That says she expected not just to win, but to dominate the 400-800-1,500 m Freestyles and contend for the gold in the 200 m Free as well. Looking ahead to Tokyo, she will again have her personal coach – Meehan – with her as the U.S. women’s team coach.

Given what transpired in Korea, it will be fascinating to see how Ledecky integrates her commitments to the inaugural season of the International Swimming League. As a member of the D.C. Tridents, her first meet is on 4-5 October and the season continues through early December.

With all of the ruckus caused by the awards ceremony actions of Mack Horton (AUS) and Duncan Scott (GBR), standing aside from China’s Yang Sun during and after the medal presentations in the 400 m Free and 200 m Free, respectively, in Gwangju, it came as a considerable shock that Australian sprinter Shayna Jack wasn’t at the Worlds because of her own failed doping test.

Jack, 20, was expected to swim on relays in Gwangju, but a test on 26 June turned up a positive result. Swimming Australia suspended her immediately, as did the International Swimming League.

Jack shared a Facebook post that noted:

“It is with great sadness and heartache that I had to leave due to allegations of having a prohibited substance in my system. I did NOT take this substance knowingly. Swimming has been my passion since I was 10 years old and I would never intentionally take a banned substance that would disrespect my sport and jeopardise my career. Now there is an ongoing investigation and my team and I are doing everything we can to find out when and how this substance has come into contact with my body.”

She further gave a play-by-play description of being told about the positives on Sunday, ending with “I did not and would not cheat and will continue to fight to clear my name.”

After Horton’s high-profile protest of Sun’s 400 m Free win, focused on his doping positive in 2014 and reports that he smashed a specimen vial last September, the Jack positive is embarrassing to say the least for Australia. But it has also been pointed out that Swimming Australia suspended her immediately, and the Chinese Swimming Association has been less aggressive with Sun.

There were 10 world records set in Gwangju, and three more records from the plastic-suit era of 2008-09 were erased. Those included Michael Phelps’ standards in the 100 m and 200 m Butterfly events, smashed by Caeleb Dressel of the U.S. (49.50) and Hungary’s Kristof Milak (1:50.73).

The women’s 4×200 m Free relay mark set by China in 2009 of 7:42.08 was lowered by Australia – without Jack – to 7:41.50.

After 10 years, we’re starting to see the 2008-09 plastic-suit records leave the books, but they are still prevalent in the men’s events:

Men: Of 20 records, 10 still remain from 2008-09;

Women: Of 20 records, just 2 remain from 2008-09.

Among the men’s records, the 50-100-200-400-800 m Freestyles and all three relays are from the slick-suit era. Today’s swimmers are getting closer, but not there yet.

As much as the new faces of Gwangju like Milak and Ariarne Titmus grabbed the headlines, more than half of the events in the meet had repeat champions:

Men (11):
● 50 m Freestyle: Caeleb Dressel (USA)
● 100 m Freestyle: Caeleb Dressel (USA)
● 200 m Freestyle: Yang Sun (CHN)
● 400 m Freestyle: Yang Sun (CHN) ~ fourth straight title
● 100 m Backstroke: Jiayu Xu (CHN)
● 200 m Backstroke: Evgeny Rylov (RUS)
● 50 m Breaststroke: Adam Peaty (GBR) ~ third straight title
● 100 m Breaststroke: Adam Peaty (GBR) ~ third straight title
● 200 m Breaststroke: Anton Chupkov (RUS)
● 100 m Butterfly: Caeleb Dressel (USA)
● 4×100 m Freestyle: United States

Women (11):
● 100 m Freestyle: Simone Manuel (USA)
● 200 m Freestyle: Federica Pellegrini (ITA) ~ fourth title (2011-13-17-19)
● 800 m Freestyle: Katie Ledecky (USA) ~ fourth straight title
● 100 m Backstroke: Kylie Masse (CAN)
● 50 m Breaststroke: Lilly King (USA)
● 100 m Breaststroke: Lilly King (USA)
● 200 m Breaststroke: Yuliya Efimova (RUS) ~ third title (2013-17-19)
● 50 m Butterfly: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) ~ third straight title
● 200 m Indiv. Medley: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) ~ fourth straight title
● 400 m Indiv. Medley: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) ~ fourth straight title
● 4×100 m Medley: United States

Mixed (1):
● 4×100 m Freestyle: United States

That’s 11 of 20 events for both genders and one Mixed relay, so 23 of the 42 swimming events had the same winners as two years ago in Budapest. Who would have won a bet on that?