Swedish Sorority Snaps World Mark; Double Gold For Hansson; Rivals Shy Of Shymanovich; Casas Upsets Kolesnikov; Gorbenko Cuts A Dash Israel

2021-12-17 Reading Time: 7 minutes
Ilya Shymanovich, main image, added the World title to his global short-course record (image by Giorgio Scala, Deepblue Media); inset, Share Casas, 100m back champion

Sweden’s 4x50m medley sorority matched the World record, Louise Hansson backed up with a gold of her own in the 100m backstroke and Ilya Shymanovich added the World 100m breaststroke short-course title to the two World records he set earlier this season on the second day of action at the FINA winter showcase in Abu Dhabi.

At a World short-course Championships where big names are making their absence felt in every final, Shaine Casas upset Kliment Kolesnikov in the 100m backstroke and Anastasia Gorbenko sent the Israeli flag up the tallest pole for the first time in global waters with victory in the 50m breaststroke. A special moment to hear the Hatikvah in a pool, and all the more so in peace in a pool in the Middle East.

There were also golds for Olympic 200m butterfly champion Zhang Yufei and Korean teen and World junior record holder Hwang Sunwoo in the 200m freestyle.

The session came to a close with victory for Canada in the 4x50m mixed freestyle relay.

Men’s 100m breaststroke – Gold For Shymanovich

Ilya Shymanovich

While the cat’s away, the mice, he speediest of them all, will play, make hay on a day that presented the with a rare chance of racing for global breaststroke honours without the threat of Adam Peaty in lane 4.

Shymanovich, a 55.28 100m breaststroke world short-course record in the vault as his second global pace-setter this season) on International Swimming League duty in Eindhoven last month, left nothing to chance.

The 6ft 6-incher from Belarus raced inside his own top global pace at 25.79 at the half-way on his way to a championship-record victory of 55.70, 0.1sec ahead of Italian challenger Nicolo Martinenghi, the bronze just 0.07sec further adrift as American Nic Fink came home in 55.87.

That locked out Dutchman Arno Kamminga, the best of them all behind Peaty at Tokyo 202One as Olympic silver medallist (also in the 200m) and the only other man in history to have raced into 58sec in the long-course pool.

Peaty has not made the little pool a target and the championship mark Shymanovich took down belonged to 2012 Olympic champion Cameron van Der Burgh, at 56.01 since his swansong in 2018. Shymanovich is almost a second swifter than Van der Burgh at his best, compared to Peaty’s long-course advance on the South African of 1.58sec.

Meanwhile, the biggest predator of the pride of world best breaststroke specialists has been busy strictly dancing, penning and launching his good guide to excellence, catching up with his son, his partner, his family and friends and enjoying time away from the pain and gain of the lane in which his achievements have made him a household name at home in Britain and in some places beyond.

Peaty is now heading back to the pool and looking forward to rejoining battle come the bigger showcase of the World long-course Championships in Fukuoka next May, when, assuming he is ready and qualifies, he would defend a 100m crown he has already claimed a record three times, in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

English is not Shymanovich’s native language but when he was asked about the huge progress on the clock in breaststroke races over the past several years, something was clearly lost in translation.

Avoiding any mention of Peaty, Shymanovich mentioned it having been a close race and his speed was down to the great opposition he faced.

Tip for FINA meet organisers: check the language skills of the athletes before making them go breathless and live to the world in English. It was an issue in a few finals. Best to either provide an instant translation or… avoid a missable moment if you’re hoping to reach an audience beyond fandom that will overlook such things as it rides the wave of the racing highlight it lives in anticipation of. It was the same with Hwang and Zhang. Easy to overhear the noise in the background of fine Aussie tones in the commentary at a meet void of Australians but difficult to listen to athletes being asked to put to the test skills they don’t have moments after showing us the skills they most certainly do have.

In Other Action Beyond The Speed Of Shymanovich

Shymanovich delivered one of the most predictable victories on the day. Elsewhere, there were several upsets.

Women’s 4x50m medley relay – Gold and World-Record Snap For Sweden

The second sessions of finals in Abu Dhabi got off to a World-record start when Sweden’s Louise (25.91) and Sophie Hansson (29.07), Sarah Sjostrom (23.96) and Michelle Coleman (23.44) matched the 1:42.38 global short-course standard established by a quartet from the United States for the 2018 title in Hangzhou in 2018 ahead of the city of Sun Yang’s birth hearing the bad news from an event that had taken place in autumn that year.

Sjostrom’s 23.96 ‘fly split was faster than the freestyle splits in three of the quartets in the final.

Sweden led the whole way and by the close had kept Rhyan White, Olympic 100m breaststroke champion Lydia Jacoby, Claire Curzan and Abbey Weitzeil, racing in the role of defending champions, at bay by 1.23sec.

The bronze to the Netherlands, courtesy of Kira Toussaint, Kim Busch, Maaike de Waard and Ranomi Kromowidjojo, over Canada in a tight tussle that ended 1:44.03 to 1:44.16 in favour of the Dutch.

Men’s 100m backstroke – Golden debut for Shaine Casas

Shaine Casas

In what was the first major international final of his career, Shaine Casas, of the United States, produced an upset victory over Russian favourite Kliment Kolesnikov 49.23 to 49.46. The bronze went to Romania’s Robert Glinta in 49.60.

A fine swim for Casas and a moment he described as “redemption” after his disappointment in the first shot at the Olympic Games, the time reflected the relative weakness of the entry in Abu Dhabi, among those absent, Casas’ fellow American, new World record holder from the International swimming League season, Coleman Stewart, who stormed to a 48.33 standard a few weeks back.

Olympic silver medallist, Kolesnikov had no response to the fast start of Casas, the half-way gap between the two a decisive 0.24sec before the Russian swam the closing 50m just 0.01sec faster than the American, the damage done, the opening gold of Casas’ international account in the vault.

Women’s 200m butterfly – Gold For Olympic champ Zhang Yufei

Zhang Yufei

The gold was gone not long after Olympic champion Zhang Yufei had left her blocks on the way to a time that was close to that in which she claimed the Tokyo202One title back in the summer. In other words, she had a big comfort zone over her rivals going into battle – and didn’t disappoint.

The winning effort put in over the first 150m, her 100m split a dominant 58.62, Zhang felt the heat in the closing 50m but by then gold was in her grasp. The clock stopped at 2:03.01, the silver nabbed in 2:04.35 by American Charlotte Hook, bronze to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Lana Pudar in 2:04.88.

Apologising for her English, which was much better than the Chinese skills of just about all of her rivals, Zhang noted after the race: “This is my first gold medal in short-course racing.” And she was happy for that to be the case.

Men’s 200m freestyle – Gold for Hwang Sunwoo

Hwang Sunwoo

Hwang Sunwoo today took a leaf out of the book of lessons learned at the Tokyo Olympic Games, when he roared ahead for three lengths only to be mowed down by Brits Tom Dean and Duncan Scott down the last length, and came away with the big prize, a first international senior crown, in 1:41.60.

Keeping his powder dry for the first 150m of battle, Hwang then produced the swiftest last 50m in the final for victory by 0.03sec over Russia’s Alex Shscegolev, the bronze to Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys in 1:41.73.

Close but not as close as the fight back in Tokyo, when Dean took gold by 0.06sec over teammate Scott. Today, Dean did not show for action in heats (a man twice positive for the coronavirus during the pandemic, he got pinged as a close contact of a covid positive) while Scott, a heavy race season and mild infection having taken the edge off him as training veers towards sharper moments at the long-course showcase in May, was just shy of the podium, on 1:42.27.

Women’s 50m breaststroke – Anastasia Gorbenko Gets Gold

Anastasia Gorbenko

Medley and backstroke ace Anastasia Gorbenko claimed Israel’s first World swimming title by dashing down two lengths of breaststroke in 29.34sec.

That kept World long-course record holder Benedetta Pilato, of Italy, in second place, on 29.50, the bronze 0.05sec further away and in the hands of Sweden’s Sophie Hansson, who started the session sharing gold with sister Louise and teammates in the world-record-setting Swedish medley relay and after her second podium watched her sibling claim a second gold on the day as champion in the 100m backstroke.

Ireland’s Mona McSharry was locked out of the medals by just 0.04sec.

Women’s 100m backstroke – A Fine Day For The Hansson Sisters

Louise Hansson, second from top, with teammates Michelle Coleman, to her right, Sarah Sjostrom and Louise’s sister Sophie

Louise Hansson started the day with gold as a member of Sweden’s world-record matching 4x50m medley relay. She ended it with a second gold, a debut World title and a new status, as 100m backstroke champion on 55.20, 0.02sec ahead of Canadian Olympic medallist Kylie Masse.

Hansson had scooped gold in a relay that included her sister Sophie, who also claimed a second medal on the day, a bronze in the 50m breaststroke. All told, the Hanssons made a big impact on the podium in Abu Dhabi this day, with a haul of three gold and one bronze.

The bronze went to Katharine Berkoff in 55.40. The American is the daughter of Dave Berkoff, the Olympic 100m backstroke medallist who was a member of the pioneering club of submarine specialists who travelled 30m and more up the pool dolphin-kicking underwater before blasting into stroke, turning and doing all again off the wall. Their newfound speed delivered spectacular results but the art of submariners was banned after the Seoul Olympic Games, when a limit of 15m was placed on how far swimmers could travel underwater off starts and turns, dictating how far they had to swim at and over the surface.

Berkoff the younger fended off a late challenge for the bronze from Dutch speedster Kira Toussaint, on 55.53.

Mixed 4x50m freestyle – Gold for Canada

The session came to a close with gold for Canadians Josh Liendo, Yuri Kisil, Kayla Sanchez and Olympic 100m butterfly champion Maggie MacNeil, on 1:28.55 in the mini mixed relay.

It was silver for The Netherlands – Jesse Puts, Them de Boer, Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Kira Toussaint – just 0.06sec away, the bronze to Russia’s Vladimir Morozov, Andrei Minakov, Maria Kameneva and Arina Surkova in 1:28.97.

My next wrap of the championships will be a catch up report of highlights on Monday. That’s the world of remote reporting for you. Have a fine weekend.

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