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Gold for Australia as Seebohm successfully defends World title

30 July 2017

SWIMMING: Swimming at her sixth successive FINA World Championships Australia’s backstroke queen Emily Seebohm exceeded all expectations as she stormed home in the last lap of the women’s 200m backstroke to overpower and out-touch hometown hero, Katinka Hosszu and retain her world title from 2015.

A world title defence is a feat that many an athlete try and fail to achieve, but nothing was stopping Seebohm tonight, not even a local hero in lane one, Hosszu.

In classic Seebohm style she turned in fourth place with 50 metres to go and charged all the way to the wall with the deafening roars of the crowd spurring her on to swim over the top of Olympic silver medallist, Hungary’s Hosszu.

“It was kind of nice to be honest because I knew she was really close so I could listen to them and know that it must have been really close between us,” Seebohm said of the screams that filled the stadium as they approached the finish.

“It kind of helped me to give a little bit more than what I probably thought I had left!”

On her tactic to bring it home hard Seebohm said she was confident in her race plan and stuck to it.

“I knew that Kathleen Baker was going to take it out pretty hard, because that’s her style,” Seebohm said.

“I know that people have seen me race the 200 backstroke like this many times before so for them, I think it was about trying to take it out hard because they think that will hurt me more in the backend.

“But it is all about focussing on your own race and you don’t get carried away with focussing on what people are doing around you, because at the end of the day, the perfect race plan for yourself works best and I stuck to what I know and what I’m good at and it worked out really well for me tonight.”

One of the most highly anticipated finals of the championships, the women’s 200m backstroke didn’t disappoint and Seebohm was overcome with emotion as she turned to see that she had successfully won back-to-back gold and defended her crown from Kazan.

“Honestly, I’m pretty relieved,” Seebohm said as she choked back tears.

“I’m just really honoured and proud, such a fast field tonight and I was going to be proud of myself whether I won or I came last because getting back into the pool after Rio was really hard.

“Everything I’ve gone through it just proves to myself that it wasn’t me, that Rio was just one of those things that happens in life and sometimes you’ve got to go down, to get back up.”

After a tumultuous year in 2016 that saw Seebohm struggle through a tough Olympic campaign only to be diagnosed with endometriosis just months later, this win was even more special.

“I guess for me it was really hard after Rio, I knew there was a lot going on in my body and I really pushed through in Rio,” Seebohm said.

“After the surgery (for endometriosis) I got my wisdom teeth out in January, and then I had to rush back into the water and train really hard for this and I’m just amazed at what I have achieved tonight.

“I think what I did last year helped a lot, I was very mentally and physically tough last year even though I was struggling a lot it definitely helped me coming into this year, feeling better inside myself, feeling better inside my head and to come into this year and just absolutely enjoy every moment that I’ve had its just been a fantastic meet.”

Seebohm will add this gold medal to the bronze she collected in the individual 100m backstroke and the silver as a heat swimmer in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, with the 4x100m medley relay still to come.

Joining her in the final and racing in her first ever international final, 16-year-old Kaylee McKeown swam out of her skin to finish fourth overall in a new world junior record time of 2:06.76 – just 0.32 off a bronze medal.

“To get out and do that just really boosts my confidence,” McKeown said.

McKeown lifted with the electric atmosphere of the Duna Arena and said she loved the roaring crowd.

“It gets you quite pumped and it sort of takes your nerves away because it gets you focussed on the crowd…For me it works!

McKeown said being there when Seebohm won the title was inspiring.

“I think I was more happy with her swim than mine to be honest, it was good to see her get out there and claim the world title again.”

The silver medal went to Hosszu in 2:05.85 with Baker (USA) taking the bronze in 2:06.48.

In other eventS, former 200m butterfly specialist Grant Irvine has unlocked his hidden speed after dropping 0.31 of a second from his personal best time to clock 51.00 - the fastest textile time by an Australian - in the 100m butterfly final last night.

The field was fast with Irvine finishing seventh in a time that would have seen him win silver in Rio, beating the likes of Michael Phelps (51.14) and Chad Le Clos (51.14).

The gold medal went to Caeleb Dressel in 49.86 – the only swimmer to dip under the 50 second barrier, with Kristoff Milak (50.62) securing the silver and Olympic Champion Joseph Schooling and Great Britain’s James Guy sharing the bronze in 50.83.

In what has been an incredible week for Sarah Sjostrom, the Swede has smashed yet another world record, this time in the 50m freestyle, eclipsing Britta Steffen’s 23.73 from 2009 with a blistering 23.67 to qualify fastest for the final.

Defending champion in this event Bronte Campbell will have a shot at a spot on the podium tonight after progressing as fifth fastest in 24.43, with less than half a second separating the top six swimmers.

Campbell’s teenage training partner Shayna Jack will finish her individual world championships campaign in 13th overall, in a time of 24.69, just off her personal best of 24.66.

Dolphin debutant Jess Hansen has narrowly missed a place in the final of the women’s 50m breaststroke, finishing ninth overall in a time of 30.67.

The fastest qualifier was the USA’s 100m gold medallist Lilly King in 29.60, followed by Russia’s 200m gold medallist Yuliya Effimova in 29.73.

Australia team of Louis Townsend, Alex Graham, Brittany Elmslie, and Madi Wilson finished eighth overall in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay with a time of 3:25.51.

The USA set a new world record time of 3:19.60 to take gold with the Netherlands (3:21.81) and Canada (3:23.55) collecting silver and bronze respectively.

Full results are available here.

Swimming Australia

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