The records continued to tumble on the sixth night in the pool at the FINA World Championships, with Simone Manuel defending her title and setting a new U.S. record in the women’s 100-meter freestyle and Regan Smith and Caeleb Dressel dropping a pair of world records in their semifinals – the latter smashing a 10-year-old record set by Michael Phelps.
Ryan Murphy also picked up his first individual medal of the meet and the men’s 4x200-meter freestyle team won bronze on Friday in Gwangju, South Korea.
Manuel, a four-time Olympic medalist and the defending world champion in the 100-meter freestyle, kept her reign going with a new American-record time of 52.04 seconds. She also became just the second woman ever to win back-to-back world championship titles in the event and the first since Kornelia Ender of East Germany in 1975. Manuel won by a comfortable distance with Australia’s Cate Campbell getting the silver in 52.43 seconds and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom claiming bronze in 52.46.
There was a lot of news out of the semifinal heats on Friday as well, including Smith’s history-making swim in the women’s 200-meter backstroke. The 17-year-old, who’s the youngest member of this year’s U.S. worlds squad, set a new world record in the semifinals of the women’s 200-meter backstroke with a scorching fast time of 2:03.35. She held her hand over her mouth as she realized her time, which made her the first woman to ever swim the event in under 2:04. She shattered two-time Olympian Missy Franklin’s last remaining world record in the books, a time of 2:04.06 set at the Olympic Games London 2012, and afterward Franklin took to social media to share her excitement.
“I am speechless,” Franklin posted to her Instagram story. “Totally. Speechless. No one is more deserving and I am beyond honored to have my world record broken by @regansmith4 with a 2:03.3!?!?! What!?!?!”
Franklin later wrote in a full post that keeping the world record with an American flag by it means everything, and called Smith one of the greatest inspirations and kindest humans on the planet.
Dressel, who’s already won three gold medals and one silver at the meet, also set a new world record in the semifinals of the men’s 100-meter butterfly with his time of 49.50 seconds, beating Phelps’ world record of 49.82 seconds set at the 2009 world championships. Phelps, the all-time leader in Olympic medals and gold medals, had still three individual world records coming into these world championships and now just has one — the 400-meter individual medley.
“Just the standard that Michael set, wanted to go for it,” said Dressel, who tied another Phelps record by winning seven world championships gold medals in 2017. “I hope he was happy watching me do that.”
Phelps posted to Instagram: “Many congrats to @caelebdressel !! So sick to watch you starts, turns,under water, and of course your stroke! Swimming super fast this week! Finish strong! #usa #welldeserved.”
Members of Team USA have set a total of eight new American records at this meet including the performances of Manuel, Smith and Dressel on Friday.
In other results, Murphy nabbed his first individual medal of the meet with a silver in the men’s 200-meter backstroke. The three-time Olympic gold medalist, including the in this event, finished in 1:54.12. The top two medals were a repeat from the 2017 world championships in Budapest, Hungary, with Russia’s Evgeny Rylov winning gold with a time of 1:53.40.
Rounding out the night, the men’s team of Andrew Seliskar, Blake Pieroni, Zach Apple and Townley Haas won bronze in the 4x200-meter freestyle with a time of 7:01.98, coming in behind Australia (7:00.85) and Russia (7:01.81).
With two days of swimming to go in Gwangju, Team USA leads all countries with 17 medals and six golds.