Three things to watch for at the Swimming World Championships

Kristof Milak of Hungary celebrates winning the Men's 200m Butterfly Final at the 18th FINA World Swimming Championships in Gwangju in this file photo taken on July 24, 2019. — Reuters pic

Kristof Milak of Hungary celebrates winning the Men’s 200m Butterfly Final at the 18th FINA World Swimming Championships in Gwangju in this file photo taken on July 24, 2019. — Reuters pic

Friday, 17 Jun 2022 11:14 AM MYT

BUDAPEST, June 17 — The swimming long-course World Championships start in Budapest tomorrow, here AFP picks out three storylines to follow.

Hungary for gold

At the last world championships in Gwangju, South Korea in 2019, Hungary won just four medals. All of them were gold.

All three champions will defend their titles before home fans at the Duna Arena and can expect raucous support.

Olympic champion Kristof Milak is looking forward to another coronation as the monarch of the 200m butterfly in front of an adoring full house. He expects to race throughout the competition in the lane awarded to the fastest swimmer.

“The Duna Arena is my home,” he told the Fina web site. “It’s my pool. Number four is my lane. That is where I train and where I win races. I have only fond memories and it’s amazing that I can go for retaining my title from Gwangju in Budapest.”

Katinka Hosszu of Hungary celebrates her gold medal on the podium after winning the Olympic women's 400m individual medley swimming final at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, Rio de Janeiro in this file photo taken on August 6, 2016. — Reuters pic

Katinka Hosszu of Hungary celebrates her gold medal on the podium after winning the Olympic women’s 400m individual medley swimming final at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, Rio de Janeiro in this file photo taken on August 6, 2016. — Reuters pic

Katinka Hosszu knows what it is like to take a world title before a roaring Duna crowd.

She won Hungary’s two golds in 2017, but at 33 she will need to ride a tidal wave of home support if she is to win a fifth consecutive 200m medley title or an unprecedented sixth title in the 400m medley.

She is world record holder in both events, but was well off her best times as she finished outside the medals in Tokyo. She blamed the shutdown of competition ahead of the Games for her poor form.

Boglarka Kapas sprung a surprise when she won the 200m butterfly in Gwangju, three years ago, but it will take a seismic roar if she is to defend her title against the Olympic medallists Zhang Yufei, Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger.

Old stager

Elite swimming is a sport for the young, and 15-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh will be flying the flag for youth in the women’s medleys and freestyle, but the championships could also yield a 42-year-old, first-time, long-course world champion.

Nicholas Santos, a Brazilian sprint specialist, swam in his first World Championship in 2001. He already holds the record as the oldest long-course world-championship medallist and oldest short-course world champion.

He will compete in the butterfly sprint, one of the three 50m thrashes raced in the world championships but not the Olympics. He has set a personal best already this year and lies fourth in the world rankings which are topped, inevitably, by Caeleb Dressel.

Silver linings

In his Olympic debut in Tokyo, Dutch breaststroker Arno Kamminga won two silver medals.

Ukrainian long-distance freestyler Mykhailo Romanchuk, collected 1500m silvers in the last two world championships and in Tokyo Olympics.

Budapest may offer them a chance to upgrade.

Kamminga’s silver behind Australian Zac Stubblety-Cook in the 200m in Tokyo was a surprise as he beat swimmers with much faster career bests.

But in the 100m, the Dutchman is the second-fastest of all time. His problem is that Briton Adam Peaty dominates the event and has swum quicker 17 times.

Stubblety-Cook will be in Budapest but Peaty will be absent, nursing a broken foot.

Even though a couple of Americans have faster 100m times than Kamminga this year, this is the Dutchman’s chance. It might be his only chance for a while.

Romanchuk is only ninth quickest in the 1500m this year. His old nemeses Florian Wellbrock and Gregorio Paltrinieri have gone faster, as has German phenom Lukas Martens.

Yet, at a tough moment for Ukraine and its athletes, Romanchuk has unusual motivation to make a statement. — AFP

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