GWANGJU (AFP, Reuters) With four straight world championship golds, one Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Games and the world record of 55.48sec, Sarah Sjostrom had few, if any, peers in the 100m butterfly.
That was until Tuesday (July22), when Margaret MacNeil upset the form book in Gwangju, South Korea, to touch home in 55.83sec, denying the favourite (56.22sec) a fifth successive world title, with Australia’s Emma McKeon third (56.61sec).
The 19-year-old Canadian secured her country’s first gold on her tournament debut, and the victory was even sweeter as it came against someone she looked up to growing up.
She said: “I can’t believe that. Oh, my God, it’s incredible. I’ve been watching Sarah since I was a little girl, so that means a lot to me.”
Swede Sjostrom, however, admitted she may have already peaked in the pool as she was “not 18 years (old) anymore”.
The 25-year-old told broadcaster Sveriges TV: “I did my best, I couldn’t swim faster today.
“I have known both in the heats and semi-finals that it will be heavy the last 10m and I really did everything I could today.
“I get most happy when I win. Can’t do much more than this. But I’m a little disappointed now.
“I didn’t think I was going to finish in the end, so I’m still quite happy… (but this is) the first time I take a silver in the 100m butterfly. I wasn’t strong enough. The younger ones are stronger.”
In an earlier event, Adam Peaty became the first male swimmer to lift three consecutive 100m breaststroke titles, even though his failure to break his world-record time of 56.88 – which he set in Sunday’s semi-finals – left him feeling “a little bit disappointed”.
The Briton, undefeated in the event in the past five years and the first to go under 57 seconds, finished in 57.14 – more than a second ahead of compatriot James Wilby (58.46) and bronze medallist Yan Zibei (58.63) of China.
He said: “That will fuel me for next year (at the Tokyo Olympics where he will defend his gold) because I know how bad I want to go below 56, even faster now, and I know exactly how to do it.”
Separately, Mack Horton was yesterday warned over his conduct after protesting against Sun Yang during the podium ceremony following the conclusion of the 400m freestyle final on Sunday.
The Australian refused to join his Chinese rival, who won a record fourth title in the event, on the podium for photos – an act firmly backed by his compatriots and American swimmers.
However, swimming’s governing body Fina took a dim view, saying that while it “respects the principle of freedom of speech, it has to be conducted in the right context”.
Horton has been in a long-running feud with Sun after calling him a “drug cheat” before beating him to win gold in Rio.
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