A five-gold medal masterclass from Katinka Hosszu (HUN), a swim agonisingly close to a World Record by Russian Vladimir Morozov and two gold to Chad Le Clos (RSA) were among the highlights of today’s leg of the FINA/Airweave Swimming World Cup in Hong Kong.
Spectators at Victoria Park were treated to another dominant performance from Hosszu, who is on track to beat her personal best of 10 wins in a single World Cup meet. She lowered her colours just once tonight, to American Kelsi Worrell, in the Women’s 100m Backstroke.
“I do know that my record is 10 gold for one stop, so we’ll see. I’m at five today, so I guess that is a pretty good start. We’ll see tomorrow,” she said after the evening’s programme.
“I’m not going to say I feel fresh, I don’t think anyone is feeling fresh right now after the eight stops. We have done a lot of travelling, obviously right after Rio as well so it’s definitely been a pretty long year.”
Hosszu has already been confirmed as the World Cup overall champion and says there is less pressure to compete here. “It is definitely a lot less stressful. I come in and I do my job and I love to race, but I don’t have to worry and I don’t have to be counting the points. It is much easier mentally.”
The Iron Lady touched first in the 200m Freestyle, 200m Individual Medley, 200m Backstroke, 800m Freestyle and 50m Backstroke. Finishing second to Hosszu in the Backstroke events was Emily Seebohm (AUS). Although at the end of a gruelling season, Seebohm is looking ahead to the Australian Short Course Swimming Championships, beginning on November 3. But the past week on the World Cup circuit has been tough on all competitors.
“The past week or so has sometimes been quite hard mentally more so than physically. We’re travelling without support and it gives us a good sense of where we are ahead of the Short Course Champs,” she said.
In the Men’s events, Le Clos claimed gold in the 50m Butterfly and 200m Butterfly. He had the upper hand in his intriguing season-long duel with Daiya Seto (JPN) over the longer distances. Both men have shared the honours at the World Cup meets this year.
Seto would figure in the evening’s highlight – a scorching swim by Morozov in the 100m Individual Medley. The fastest qualifier from the morning heats, the Russian had promised speed in Hong Kong. Just 0.03 sec outside the World Record, his swim would be the biggest points haul for the night with 1019 points.
Morozov was leading the men’s overall standings comfortably before tonight’s programme, as well as the Third Cluster of races, and will finish the year on top.
In the women’s 100m butterfly final, Worrell’s scintillating swim to outpoint superstar Hosszu left the crowd silent. After qualifying second fastest in a time of 55.49 that earned her 953 ranking points, noted sprinter Worrell went to another level in the final and was never challenged by Hosszu in second. That being said, that Hosszu is able to compete at such an elite level is testament to her training and stamina. Jeanette Ottesen (DEN) finished in third place.
The men’s 100m backstroke saw Stanislav Donets (RUS) prevail in a competitive race that ended in a tight finish. The Russian’s time of 50.46 was enough for him to net 911 points to finish clear of Australia’s Mitchell Larkin and Pavel Sankovich of Belarus.
The field for the women’s 50m backstroke was packed with quality swimmers, with the Ukraine’s Daryna Zevina, Seebohm, Worrell and Hosszu in the pool. Hosszu was fast off the blocks and led throughout to touch first in 26.40, with Seebohm’s 26.68 enough to see her into second and Zevina rounding out the places.
The men’s 200m butterfly was over in the first 100m, with Le Clos stunning the field by completing the first half of the race in under World Record pace. His overall time of 1:49.95 earned him an impressive 962 ranking points as saw him touch the wall well ahead of Japan’s Seto and Masato Sakai.
The women’s 200m medley again saw the class of Hosszu rise to the top, with the Hungarian shaking off Russia’s Yuliya Efimova after an even breaststroke leg. The Iron Lady blew the race apart in the freestyle leg and powered home in the superior time 2:05.39, comfortably ahead of Efimova’s 2:07.07. Another Hungarian, Zsuzsanna Jakabos, came in for third
The men’s 400m freestyle was a race in two, with Ukranian Mykhailo Romanchuk and Hungary’s Peter Bernek gapping the rest of the field. Bernek swam a controlled race, keeping half a body length on Romanchuk throughout the first 300m, before eventual victor Romanchuk turned up the stroke rate. The Ukranian loomed large in final lap, touching out Bernek by 0.33 seconds in 4:40.18. James Guy (GBR) finished third.
Ottesen, of Denmark, was a clear winner in the women’s 50m freestyle, starting well and holding her form throughout to touch in 23.95. Canada’s Michelle Williams grabbed second in 24.38 and Seebohm rounded out the placings.
Marco Koch of Germany posted an impressive victory in the men’s 200m breaststroke, stroking more than two seconds clear of nearest rival Ippei Watanabe of Japan. Koch’s 2:02.31 netted 955 ranking points, Watanabe touched in 2:04.41 and American Josh Prenot snared third.
Another of Hosszu’s day one five-medal haul came in the women’s 200m backstroke, with Seebohm and Zevina again completing the podium. Hosszu touched in 2:02.28, pipping Seebohm’s 2:02.91, while Zevina was further back in 2:03.87.
The win sets the scene for Hosszu’s attempt at another piece of World Cup history tomorrow, when she aims to beat her 10-win best.