Missy Franklin claimed an historic six golds at swimming’s World Championships while Ruta Meilutyte and Katie Ledecky each broke two world records as teenage girls ruled the pool in Barcelona.
US starlet Franklin earned her six in the 100 and 200m backstroke finals, the 200m freestyle, plus she picked up relay gold medals in the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle finals, then Sunday's 4x100m medley.
It made her the first woman to win six titles at a world championships, her haul matching Ian Thorpe of Australia at the 2001 world championships in Fukuoka, Japan.
It’s a mark which has only been bettered by Michael Phelps’ seven golds at Melbourne in 2007. “It is an honour to be the first woman to reach this landmark,” said Franklin, who won five golds at the London Olympics and set the 200m backstroke record.
The 18-year-old American won six of the eight events she entered in the stand-out performance in Barcelona while Ledecky of the USA and Lithuania’s Meilutyte, who are both sixteen, finished with two world records each.
A total of five world records were broken in Barcelona — all by women. Meilutyte took both the 50m and 100m breaststroke records, while Ledecky shaved nearly six seconds off the 1500m record, then lowered the 800m mark on Saturday while Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen, 24, also set a new 200m breaststroke record.
Ledecky said Phelps’ mark can still be felt on the sport, 12 months after the swim legend walked away after last year’s Olympics. Despite Franklin’s achievements, Ledecky deserved her award as the championships’ best female swimmer with a haul of four golds after sweeping the long-distance freestyle events over 400, 800 and 1500m, plus helping the USA women’s 4x200m freestyle relay squad to victory.
Ledecky has said she now wants to test herself over 200m, which would put her on a collision course with Franklin at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Even without Phelps, the USA team dominated the medals table with 29 medals (13 gold, 8 silvers and 8 bronze) with China a distant second with a total of nine, France third and Australia fourth.
Australia bounced back from their disappointing performance at the Olympics with three golds. Both Cate Campbell and James Magnussen won their respective 100m freestyle finals while Christian Sprenger took the 100m breaststroke title.
Sun shines for China
China’s 21-year-old long-distance star Sun Yang again proved he has few peers in the freestyle adding Sunday’s 1500m title to the 400m and 800m golds he won during the week.
But Chinese teenager Ye Shiwen was a flop as the Olympic 200 and 400m individual medley champion finished fourth and seventh over the respective distances.
Ye took the London 2012 Olympics by storm when she won took both IM titles, swimming the final leg of the 400m final in a faster time than men’s winner Ryan Lochte to set the world record of 4min 28.43sec.
Ye’s time in the Barcelona 400m IM final was just over 10 seconds slower than her world record in London. Ryan Lochte carried the burden of Phelps’ absence for the US men with three golds that took his tally of world titles to an amazing 15.
South Africa’s Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh picked up where they left off in London with Le Clos winning both the 100 and 200m butterfly golds in Barcelona.
Van der Burgh, the Olympic champion, finished second to Sprenger in the men’s 100m breaststroke, but gained revenge with gold in the 50m final with Sprenger second.
US men’s 4x100m medley relay team
This is the first time the American men’s team failed to win the medley relay at a World Championships since 2007 after they were disqualified owing to Kevin Cordes diving in too early.
Shiwen took the London 2012 Olympics by storm when she won took 200m and 400m individual medley titles, swimming the final leg of the 400m final in a faster time than men’s winner Ryan Lochte. However, the Olympic 200m and 400m individual medley champion, could only finish fourth and seventh over the respective distances in Barcelona.