Tatarstan capital hosted the first FINA World Championships in Russia, top aquatic athletes competed in Kazan between 24 July and 9 August. The 16th FINA World Championships were famous for the debut of mixed events in synchronised swimming, diving and swimming. The last time US did not top the medal table was back in 2001, when Australians proved to be better. Kazan saw the victory of China with runner-up US. Hungarians claimed 3 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze medals. Katinka Hosszú topped the podium twice while László Cseh clinched gold only once. Katie Ledecky sparkled with 5 gold medals.
The number of attending countries (184) and athletes (2416) further increased in Kazan, which was partly due to the newly included mixed events. Two years earlier Kazan had hosted an international event, namely Summer Universiade hence the majority of facilities and venues were ready and easily accessible.
In accordance with traditions, the country to host the 2015 World Championships had been decided 4 years earlier, in July, 2011 Shanghai. The Russian city was chosen defeating rival bids of Guadalajara, Hong Kong, Gwangju and Montreal, the latter two cities withdrew their bids shortly before the voting.
The Chinese were delighted to finish in the first place of the medal table at last, breaking the American dominance since 2003. China claimed 15 gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze, US finished second with 13 gold, 14 silver and 6 bronze. Host country, Russia was ranked third with 9 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze medals.
Katinka Hosszú defended her world champion title in 200 and 400m medley as well, László Cseh clinched a gold in 200m butterfly at the World Champs for the first time, a silver in 100m for the second time and a bronze in 50m for the first time. Hungarian swimmer Anna Olasz finished second in 25k open water swimming and so did Dávid Verrasztó in men’s 400m medley. Boglárka Kapás claimed bronze in 1500m freestyle, Daniel Gyurta touched in third in 200m breaststroke as well as Katinka Hosszú in 200m backstroke.
Swimming: Katie Ledecky – new queen of freestyle
Three out of six men’s freestyle events were won by the Chinese, although this time Sun Yang could not repeat his achievements of 2 years earlier – in 1500m Italian swimmer Paltrinieri touched in first – yet the Chinese swimmer defended his world champion title in 400m and 800m alike, in addition, he finished second in 200m, runner-up to British swimmer James Guy. As a matter of fact, we should have started the listing with Ryan Lochte. Although he claimed only one gold, however, he wrote history by winning his 4th consecutive gold in 200m medley at the World Championships. Beside him, the only swimmer who could do so was Grant Hackett from Australia, he was the king of 1500m freestyle in the period between Perth and Barcelona.
Daniel Gyurta was aiming at achieving the same in 200m breaststroke, he did not manage to copy Lochte’s excellent accomplishment though. The three-time world champion in 200m breaststroke (2:08.10) claimed bronze after a rather close race with silver medallist German swimmer Marco Koch (2:07.76) and American gold medallist Kevin Cordes (2:08.05).
The 50 and 100m event saw a heavy battle in water. Both were claimed by British rising star blasting in Kazan, Adam Peaty, ahead of South-African Cameron van der Burgh. In the shorter course he touched in 26.42, world record time still prevailing. In fact, he did it in the semi-final not the final, back in the prelims the South-African broke a world record (26.62). Both of them were rather exhausted in the final and produced less astonishing results. Eventually Peaty touched in 26.51, ahead of van der Burgh (26.66).
Both 100 and 200m backstroke were swept by Australian Mitch Larkin, in the shorter one he was only 8 hundredths slower than French 50m champion Camille Lacourt. 100 and 200m butterfly heats brought a rather close race between László Cseh and South-African Chad le Clos. The South-African swimmer finished first in 100m and the silver went to the Hungarian, whereas in 200m it happened the other way round.
Ladies were busy breaching world records in Kazan, too, they broke 5 of them in the tournament. Swedish swimmer Sarah Sjöström set the new record in 55.74 in the 100m butterfly prelims, then she improved it to 55.64 in the final. American Katie Ledecky came between the two records of Sjöström and no doubt, she became the greatest star of swimming at the World Championships.
First she clinched gold in 400m freestyle final by new world record, then she set a new record in a 1500m heat and later in the final as well (15:25.48). She won in 200m by „normal” time, then she touched in first in 800m breaching the world record (8:07.39), altogether she topped the podium four times in solo events and once with women’s 4x200m freestyle relay team.
Katinka Hosszú defended her title in both medleys, in 200m she did so with a new world record time (2:06.12), which has not yet been broken since then. Two Australian ladies shall also be highlighted here, Bronte Campbell raised eyebrows in the two shortest courses, while Emily Seebohm did a great job and claimed gold in 100m and 200m backstroke.
In the freestyle relay of mixed teams debuting at the World Championships Americans proved to be the most successful and claimed world champion title first in this event, while the medley relay was won by the Brits.
Open water swimming: Americans in the frontline
US was the most successful nation in open water swimming claiming 2 gold and a silver. For women, title defender Haley Anderson (5km), for men, Jordan Wilimovsky (10 km) topped the podium, while the runner-up position was held by Alex Meyer (men’s 25 km).
The team event was won by the Germans, two-time world champion Greek swimmer Spyridon Gianniotis had to settle with a bronze in men’s 10k. The medium course for women saw French Aurélie Muller finishing first qualifying for Rio as well, so did Wilimovsky, too, since the World Championships served as the qualification tournament for the Olympics. The gold in women’s 25k went to Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha for the second time after Barcelona.
Synchronised swimming: Romashina and Ishchenko’s duet sweeping
By introducing the two mixed events the number of gold medals to be distributed increased to 9, the most significant change the debut brought was the transformation of power relations in Kazan. Russian dominance was continued, yet the debut of events proved to be most favourable for Americans, they won the technical routine of mixed duet and finished second in the free routine interfering with the classic Chinese-Spanish fight for the second place after Russia. In fact, the world champions deployed both of their aces in front of the home crowd, Svetlana Romashina, star of Barcelona and Natalia Ishchenko, favourite of Shanghai clinched one gold after the other, altogether 4 of them, in addition to the other four claimed in team events.
Diving: double mistakes by the Chinese
Similarly to synchronised swimming the debut of mixed events changed the balance of powers in diving, also. In this case Brits could benefit from the change, the duet of Tom Daley and Rebecca Gallantree was ranked first breaking the long-lasting Chinese dominance, what is more, the silver went to the Ukrainian duet thus Asians could claim bronze „only”.
In women’s 1m Italian diver Tania Cagnotto defeated gold medallist of 2011, Shi Tingmao. Still the medal table was topped by the Chinese claiming 10 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze, yet the strengthening of other nations made the tournament more exciting.
High diving: British and American achievements
In men’s field British diver Gary Hunt, while in women’s team American Rachelle Simpson clinched gold in high diving organised for the second time in the history of World Championships.
Water polo: powerhouse Serbian men’s team clinching gold with high margin
It is rare to see a team defeating rival tem with a high margin in the final of the World Championships, still it occurred in Kazan. Serbian team defeated Croatia 11-4, while a nail-biter bronze match was played by Greece and Italy. After tying 7-7 the Greek won by penalties. The World Championships provided for Olympic qualification to Rio, as World League champions had qualified already, Croatia and Greece got their entry ticket to Rio. Hungary played Montenegro for the 5th place after going down against Italy by a one-goal margin in the most decisive match in the quarter-final. In the placement match identical to the one two years earlier Montenegro bounced back and defeated the team of Tibor Benedek 10-9 thus Hungary finished sixth only.
This time title defending women’s team could not excel, either. The Spanish finished 7th only, the final was played by team US and the Netherlands. In a close match US could win 5-4 claiming their fourth world champion title. Hungary was placed 9th after the battle for top 8 with US (quite surprisingly the US was previously defeated by Italy in the group match). Scoring 21 goals Hungarian team member Rita Keszthelyi became the goal queen of the tournament.