KAZAN, Russia – American swimmers won three silver medals Friday at the XVI FINA World Championships.
Micah Lawrence and Kevin Cordes took home the hardware in the women’s and men’s 200m breaststroke, respectively, while Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Reed Malone and Michael Weiss were second in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay.
In addition to the medals, sprinter Nathan Adrian broke the American record in the semifinals of the men’s 50m freestyle, turning in a time of 21.37.
After six days in the pool, the United States’ medal count now stands at 14 – five gold, five silver and four bronze.
Women’s 200m Breaststroke
Lawrence got the ball rolling for the U.S. in the women’s 200m breaststroke, a final in which more than half the women in the field won medals due to a three-way tie for third.
Denmark’s Rikke Pedersen took a quick lead and was in control of the race until the final 50 meters, when Japan’s Kanako Watanabe made her move, pulling past Pedersen with about 25 meters to go.
While Pedersen scrambled, Lawrence held steady and passed her in the final 10 meters. Watanabe was first in 2:21.25, with Lawrence right behind in 2:22.44. Jessica Vall of Spain, Pedersen and Shi Jinglin of China tied for third in 2:22.76.
This was Lawrence’s second career World Championship medal. She won bronze in this event in 2013.
“I thought I was going to get a bronze medal, but three other people did, so they took care of that for me,” Lawrence said. “I turned around and saw the ‘2’ next to my name, and I thought, ‘Cool. Awesome, I did it.’ I had no idea three people tied. That was really surprising. I saw (the lights indicating third) on the blocks, and I was like, ‘There’s three over there and three over there, and three on the board.’ It was crazy.
“I thought there was going to be a 2:20 in there, and I was like, ‘Man, I hope if they go, that I’m going with them, because that’s what I want to do.’ But I think it was about the race, and all of us were so close. I’m sure we’ll be better at the Olympics next year. This is just a step.”
Lawrence broke her leg in February, and since then, her race in the 100 breaststroke has not been where she’s wanted it to be. She finished 19th in the prelims of the 100 earlier in the week and bounced back in a big way.
“I think from the whole series of races, (I’ve learned) that you can come back from a bad swim.” Lawrence said. “I did not believe that I could, but my coaches and my teammates believed that I could, and that’s honestly the only reason I’m standing here and the only reason I got a silver medal.”
Men’s 200m Breaststroke
Cordes was sure and steady the whole way in the men’s 200m breaststroke, while the rest of the field jockeyed for position. Marco Koch of Germany took gold in 2:07.79. Cordes was about a quarter second behind in 2:08.05, followed by Daniel Gyurta of Hungary in 2:08.10.
“I just wanted to go out smooth as I could and then the third 50 just try to build and not spin out in the last 100,” Cordes said. “I tried to keep it controlled, and I think I was able to do that.”
It was Cordes’s second medal of the week after taking bronze in the 50m breast on day 4.
“It’s my first 200 breast final (at Worlds), and I come away with a silver,”Cordes said. “I’m just going to take my experience in the final – the good and the bad – and keep it with me moving into next year. Doing this two-day prelims, semis and finals is a learning experience going into next year.”
Men’s 4x200m Free Relay
The men’s 4x200m free relay built a body-length lead on the field through the first three legs. However, Weiss could not hold of Great Britain’s James Guy down the homestretch, despite a solid anchor performance by the rookie.
Britain took gold in 7:04.33, followed by the U.S. in 7:04.75 and Australia in 7:05.35.
The team was a little disappointed with the loss, which was the U.S.’s first in this event at a World Championships since 2003. Lochte has been on all five of the gold-medal-winning 4x200m free relays since 2005.
“I think we knew before this race started, it was going to be a battle,” Lochte said. “We put our best four out there for the USA, and we came up short, but we’re definitely going to remember this. We’re going to train our butts off all next year and hopefully not let that happen again in Rio.”
In contrast, this is Weiss’s first World Championship final.
“My first World Championships to be able to be the anchor leg for Team USA was pretty exciting,” Weiss said. “The emotions are high, and I guess I came up a little short, but it’s definitely something to remember 12 months from now.”
Malone was also competing in his first World Championship final.
“When Team USA calls, you have to answer, and I did my best tonight,” Malone said. “I think I had the slowest split, so I’m a little upset about that. I probably should have been a little faster, but just like Michael and Ryan said, we’re going to remember this for next year and use it for fuel for the fire.”
Men’s 50m Free Semifinal
Adrian’s American record in the semifinals of the men’s 50m free broke the former mark of 21.40, set by Cullen Jones at the 2009 World Championships in Rome. He is the top seed headed into tomorrow night’s finals.
“I’ve actually wanted that one since 2009 when Cullen and I were racing for it, so it feels good.” Adrian said. “It took a while. It took a lot of time building strength and power, through the weight room, through the pool and lots of short sprint stuff. Lots of 5 to 15-meter blasts. That’s sometimes my entire workout – 10 blast efforts.
“I felt good in warm-up and in the ready room, and I felt like I had a good one in me. There’s no guarantee I’m going to feel like that tomorrow. When I felt that, I said to myself, ‘You’ve got to go. There’s no guaranteeing you’re going to feel like this, and you better take advantage of it.’ If I walked away from the meet not going as fast as I feel I could have gone, I would have been pretty upset.”
Teammate Anthony Ervin finished ninth in semifinals after a tough swim-off with home-country favorite Vladimir Morozov. Morozov won the swim-off, 21.90 to 21.98, to qualify for tomorrow night’s finals.
In other finals, Simone Manuel and Missy Franklin finished sixth and seventh in the women’s 100m freestyle in 53.93 and 54.00. Taking gold in this event was Bronte Campbell of Australia in 52.52, followed by Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden in 52.70 and Cate Campbell of Australia in 52.82.
In the men’s 200m backstroke, Ryan Murphy and Tyler Clary were fifth and seventh in 1:55.00 and 1:56.26. Larkin Mitchell of Australia was first in 1:53.58. Radoslaw Kawecki of Poland and Evgeny Rylov of Russia rounded out the top three in 1:54.55 and 1:54.60.
In addition to Adrian and Ervin, other Americans swimming in semifinals Friday included Franklin in the women’s 200m backstroke (3rd, 2:07.79); Elizabeth Beisel in the women’s 200m backstroke (13th, 2:10.68); Tom Shields in the men’s 100m butterfly (tie for 1st, 51.03); Tim Phillips in the men’s 100m butterfly (13th, 52.14); and Kendyl Stewart in the women’s 50m butterfly (9th, 25.93).