Gwangju, South Korea: Defending champion Simone Manuel set the pace in the women’s 100 metres freestyle on Thursday as normal service resumed at the swimming world championships after a doping storm threatened to spiral out of control.
As fallout lingered on two separate podium protests made by athletes after FINA doping testers alleged China’s Sun Yang had destroyed blood samples, there was more drama as American Lilly King suffered a shock breaststroke disqualification in Gwangju.
A buzzing Cate Campbell posted the fourth fastest time in Gwangju the morning after her blistering anchor leg brought Australia gold in the 4x100m mixed medley relay and looks a serious threat to Manuel.
“I was definitely up pinging a little bit last night,” Campbell told AFP after clocking 53.36 seconds.
“But I got enough sleep to get through this morning, so I’m happy with that. I’m really looking forward to a big nap today.”
Manuel, who tied for 2016 Olympic gold with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak, topped the time sheets with a 53.10 heading into the evening’s semi-finals.
But Campbell could have the American’s number after chasing her down in Wednesday’s mixed relay and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom also lurks having set the second fastest time, just one hundredth slower than Manuel.
Sjostrom, who was carried out on a stretcher on Wednesday after taking bronze in the 200m freestyle, joked: “I felt great after they gave me the oxygen — maybe I should take that all the time.”
Italian Federica Pellegrini, who retained her 200m title, failed to qualify.
King was booted out of the women’s 200m breaststroke after winning her heat after the American was adjudged to have failed to touch with both hands at a turn, prompting an appeal from the United States.
The 22-year-old, along with several top swimmers including fellow Olympic champion Adam Peaty, has expressed solidarity with Australian Mack Horton and Briton Duncan Scott after they snubbed Sun Yang on the podium after losing to the hulking Chinese swimmer.
Horton, beaten in the 400m free last weekend, and Scott, bronze medallist behind Sun in the 200m free, sparked a furious reaction from China’s sporting idol and the communist country’s state-run media.
Canada’s Sydney Pickrem, who has collected bronze in the women’s 200 and 400m individual medley at these championships, set the best time in the 200m breaststroke heats in 2:24.53.
Meanwhile, American great Katie Ledecky continues to struggle with a mystery illness that forced her to pull out of the 1,500m freestyle final and 200m free heats earlier in the week.
Team USA officials confirmed that the 14-time world champion could swim the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay but a final decision would be made before Thursday’s late final.
Australian Matthew Wilson put down a marker in the men’s 200m breaststroke heats, clocking 2:07.29 ahead of Russia’s reigning world champion Anton Chupkov.
Olympic gold medallist Ryan Murphy posted the quickest time in the men’s 200m backstroke heats, touching in 1:56.61 with world champion Evgeny Rylov of Russia just behind him. — AFP