Kukors Sets World Record, Men’s 4x100m Wins Gold

July 26, 2009, 7:52 p.m. (ET)

ROME – The United States men’s 4x100m freestyle relay won gold and set a meet record on the first night of pool action at the 2009 FINA World Championships. Ariana Kukors (Auburn, Wash.), swimming in the semifinal of the women’s 200m IM, broke the world record with a time of 2:07.03.

The relay team of Michael Phelps (Baltimore, Md.), Ryan Lochte (Daytona Beach, Fla.), Matt Grevers (Lake Forest, Ill.) and Nathan Adrian (Bremerton, Wash.) touched in 3:09.21, just 31-hundredths of a second ahead of second-place Russia and more than half a second ahead of the heavily-favored French, who finished with the bronze in 3:09.89.

“When we came into this meet, we really wanted to win all three relays,” Phelps said. “This was a perfect way to end day one. All these guys swam excellent splits. To be able to be on a team with them is an honor for me.”

Kukors’ world record in the 200m IM was almost a second-and-a-half faster than the former mark of 2:08.45, held by Stephanie Rice of Australia. Kukors was nearly eight-tenths of a second ahead of world record pace at the 100-meter mark, and was almost two seconds under the world record pace at the final turn. She is the top seed heading into tomorrow night’s finals. Teammate Julia Smit (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) missed qualification by about two-tenths, finishing ninth overall in 2:10.29.

Initially, Kukors finished was not slated to swim the event, after finishing third in the 200m IM at the U.S. World Championship Team Trials earlier this month in Indianapolis. She squeezed into the spot after American teammate Elizabeth Pelton scratched from the event because of a scheduling conflict with the 100m back. 

“Nobody expected anything from me in this event,” Kukors said. “In the last two weeks of training I focused on my technique, particularly on my turns. The world record is a big surprise, but I’m very happy to have it.”

In addition to Kukors’ record, five other swimmers broke world records Sunday, including Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden in the semifinals of the women’s 100m butterfly (56.44), Paul Beidermann of Germany in the finals of the men’s 400m free (3:40.07), Federica Pellegrini in the finals of the women’s 400m free (3:59.15), Britta Steffen of Germany leading off the women’s 400m free relay (52.22) and the Netherlands in the women’s 400m free relay (3:31.72).

Eric Shanteau (Lilburn, Ga.) set an American record in the semifinal of the men’s 100m breast, with a time of 58.96. Shanteau is the top seed entering the finals, which are set for Monday night. In setting the American record Sunday, Shanteau became the first American to break the 59-second barrier in this event. The former American record of 59.01 was set by Mark Gangloff earlier this month at the U.S. World Championship Trials in Indianapolis. Gangloff finished 11th in Sunday’s semis in 59.71 and did not advance.

“I was really happy with my swim,” Shanteau said, “but I will be even happier if I get a medal of any color tomorrow.”

In the men’s 400m free relay, the United States was in third place through the first two legs, but Phelps (47.78) and Lochte (47.03) kept the team in contact with the rest of the field. The French were a little more than half-a-second ahead of the Americans at the start of the third leg, but Grevers’ split of 47.61, lessened the French lead to five-hundredths of a second over the Americans, and the Russians took the lead. From there, Adrian hammered his way home in a blistering 46.79 to propel the U.S. to victory.

“I just tried to stay within myself and try to race my own race,” Adrian said.

In other races, American Allison Schmitt (Canton, Mich.) finished fourth in the women’s 400m free in 4:02.51. Federica Pellegrini of Italy finished more than a second ahead of the rest of the field, shattering her own world record by 1.26. Great Britain’s Joanne Jackson and Rebecca Adlington finished second and third, respectively, with times of 4:00.60 and 4:00.79.

Peter Vanderkaay (Rochester, Mich.) placed fourth in the 400m free behind Germany’s Paul Biederman, who broke the legendary Ian Thorpe’s world record by a hundredth of a second. Tunisia’s Ousama Mellouli was second in 3:41.11, while China’s Zhang Lin was third in 3:41.35.

In the women’s 400m free relay, the team of Amanda Weir (Lawrenceville, Ga.), Dara Torres (Parkland, Fla.), Christine Magnuson (Tinley Park, Ill.) and Dana Vollmer (Granbury, Texas) finished fourth in 3:35.23. The Netherlands won gold with the world record swim, followed by the Germans in 3:31.83 and the Australians in 3:33.01.

Dana Vollmer (Granbury, Texas) turned in the Americans’ top time in the semifinals of the women’s 100m butterfly, touching 57.19 to qualify third for tomorrow night’s finals. Olympic silver medalist and American record-holder Christine Magnuson did not advance, finishing 10th in 57.59.

FLASH QUOTES: Men’s 4x100m Free Relay Press Conference

“I was confident with (Adrian) on the block. I was confident he was going to step up and swim an excellent leg. That’s good news for the future of our relays.”
- Michael Phelps

“Right before the race, I looked up at (France’s Alain) Bernard, and he’s like seven feet tall. I thought, ‘How am I racing this guy?’ I just tried to do my part and not mess it up for the other guys.”
- Ryan Lochte

“Each person really did their job in the end. I really wanted Nathan on the end of this relay, because he’s the future of sprinting here in this country.”
- U.S. Head Men’s Coach Bob Bowman

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