Day 1 Swimming Worlds: Pair of U.S. Relay Golds Headline Opening Night!

2017 Jul | By

(c) 2017 FINA World Championships

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Day 1 of swimming at the 2017 FINA World Championships opened in front of a sold out crowd at Danube Arena with a raucous audience cheering on its home swimmers including national hero Katinka Hosszu. The night ended with a pair of relay golds for the U.S. men and women in the 4x100m freestyle relays. Sandwiched in between were brilliant individual performances by the superstar duo of Sun Yang and Katie Ledecky in the 400m freestyle races.

It’s been almost a full year since the Rio Games, but Sun Yang was looking for redemption in the 400m event that opened the first night of finals. He got it, as he led from start to finish to add to China’s lead in the overall Worlds medal count (Chinese divers dominated this past week, as usual). Rio gold medalist, Australian Mack Horton, swam a full two seconds slower then he did in Brazil, grabbing silver, but ceding the title of world’s best back to Sun, who was the 2015 world champion at this distance in Kazan.

(c) 2017 FINA World Championships

Four events later, Katie Ledecky similarly dominated from the start with compatriot Leah Smith hanging close enough to keep it interesting for the first half. Ledecky swam sub-four minutes like she has for the past few years and set a Championship Record of 3:58.34, but well off her world record-breaking Rio time.

The night ended with the U.S. grabbing gold in two hotly contested relays. On the men’s side, the Brazilians qualified first, Australia second and the Americans third, but the U.S. led the final from the start thanks to Caeleb Dressel’s scorching first leg. After good swims from Townley Haas and Blake Pieroni, Nathan Adrian held off Brazil’s Bruno Fratus on the finish leg to win -- and erase memories of 2015 Worlds, where the U.S. men didn’t even make the final.

(c) 2017 FINA World Championships

On the women’s side, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom set a world record in the 100m women’s freestyle with her opening relay leg, setting the Swedes up for a big lead over the first 250 meters. But Ledecky chased down Ida Lindborg to take the lead in the third leg and Simone Manuel held on as the U.S. women regained a title they haven’t held since 2013 with Australian women winning in Kazan and Rio. Lost in the excitement of the close finish and U.S. win was Sjostrom’s 51.71 in the 100m which is something she will be gunning for starting Thursday in the individual 100m freestyle.

It was an opening night with expected stars making their mark early and one unexpected finish. The home crowd almost blew the top off the stadium when the Hungarian men clinched bronze in the 4x100m freestyle relay swimming out of lane 2, defeating the Russians and Australians among others. For Hungary, it was as good as gold. More excitement is expected Monday when Hosszu competes in the 200m IM.

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