Swimmers look to make their mark at World Aquatics

SEOUL: The slogan for this month’s world aquatics championships in South Korea is “Dive into Peace” but geopolitics will be the last thing on swimmers minds as they plunge into the Gwangju pool looking to lay down a marker ahead of the 2020 Olympics.
A total of 42 swimming gold medals will be up for grabs at the biennial championships, a platform which catapulted future Olympic great Michael Phelps onto the global stage as a 15-year-old in 2001.
While Phelps has long since hung up his goggles, American swimming looks no less dominant with freestyle queen Katie Ledecky and sprint powerhouse Caeleb Dressel spearheading the US roster for the July 21-28 meet. Ledecky, who is looking to add to her haul of 14 gold medals, is the world record holder in the 400, 800 and 1,500 and will compete in all three events, plus the 200.
How the five-time Olympic champion handles that punishing schedule will be a good indicator of her chances of sweeping all four at next year’s Tokyo Games, which has added the 1,500 to the programme.
Even if the 22-year-old struggles to peak in all four it is highly unlikely she will drop the 1,500 since she holds nine of the 10 fastest times ever swam in the event. If she is to be beaten in Gwangju, however, the 200 is where it might happen.
Australian Ariarne Titmus has emerged as a real threat with the fastest time of the year (1:54.30) with compatriot Emma McKeon close to that mark at last month’s Australian trials. Swede Sarah Sjostrom and Italian Federica Pellegrini have also swam faster than Ledecky in the 200 this year. Sjostrom has won her preferred event, the 100 butterfly, at four previous world championships and victory next week would make her the first female swimmer to win the same event five times. — Reuters