Sun-Hor­ton clash, Ledecky kick-off world cham­pi­onships

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Aus­tralia’s Mack Hor­ton and China’s Sun Yang will re­sume their badtem­pered ri­valry in the pool when the swim­ming sec­tion of the world aquatic cham­pi­onships starts to­day. Hor­ton ended Sun’s four-year dom­i­na­tion of the 400m freestyle event in spec­tac­u­lar style at last year’s Rio De Janeiro Olympics af­ter brand­ing Sun a ‘drug cheat’ in the build-up.

Sparks are ex­pected to fur­ther fly with both also reg­is­tered to swim over 200m, 800 and 1500m freestyle in Bu­dapest and Hor­ton took an­other dig at Sun on Fri­day. “I think it’s a ri­valry be­tween elite ath­letes and ath­letes who have tested pos­i­tive, but there should be some good races,” Hor­ton said when asked about fac­ing his ri­val.

Hor­ton and Sun, who served a three­month ban in 2014, will be bat­tling to be the fastest from to­day morn­ing’s 400m heats into the evening’s fi­nal and their grudge ‘War in the Wa­ter’ re­match will take star billing at Bu­dapest’s Duna Arena. Also rac­ing to­day is the USA’s gold-medal and record-break­ing ma­chine Katie Ledecky, the star at­trac­tion in the women’s freestyle heats and fi­nals. Ledecky faces a pun­ish­ing sched­ule of six events-the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles, plus the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle re­lays. It means, in­clud­ing heats and fi­nals, she will po­ten­tially swim a to­tal of 6,300 me­tres in Bu­dapest. “I can’t wait to race,” said Ledecky. “I know how to han­dle that and man­age it to have good en­ergy through­out the whole week.” Ex­pect Ledecky to chal­lenge her own 400m, 800 and 1500m freestyle world and she could end up break­ing the women’s record of six gold medals at a world cham­pi­onships set by Missy Franklin in 2013.

HOSSZU’S IRON GRIP

Hun­gary’s ‘Iron Lady’ Katinka Hosszu will be out to main­tain her grip on the 200m and 400m in­di­vid­ual med­ley events she has dom­i­nated in re­cent years. Hosszu has en­tered six in­di­vid­ual events, in­clud­ing the 100m back­stroke-one of three events in which she won Olympic gold last year-in a pun­ish­ing sched­ule, but her pri­or­ity will be de­fend­ing her 200m and 400m med­ley crowns. Ex­pect fire­works over the longer dis­tance af­ter Hosszu took two sec­onds off the world record over 400m when she struck Olympic gold in Rio last year. “By (the time of the world cham­pi­onships) I will know each and every lit­tle stone of the Duna Arena,” said Hosszu.

“This pool is so beau­ti­ful, that it also puts a lit­tle pres­sure on us Hun­gar­i­ans though. It’s up to us, now we all have to swim fast.” China, third in the medals ta­ble in swim­ming events in 2015 in Kazan, will also look to back­stro­ker Fu Yuan­hui to de­fend her 50m ti­tle. A hi­lar­i­ous video went vi­ral of Fu’s re­ac­tion af­ter dis­cov­er­ing she had won joint bronze over 100m at the Rio Olympics and the 21-year-old will be hop­ing for more goofy smiles in Bu­dapest.

The USA, a pow­er­house in the pool, will bring a young team-with an av­er­age age of 22 — shorn of stars Michael Phelps, who has re­tired again, and Franklin, who sits out Bu­dapest af­ter surgery on both shoul­ders last year. Teenagers Re­gan Smith, 15, and 17-year-olds Robert Finke and Dakota Luther will race in the back­stroke, freestyle and butterfly re­spec­tively. Bri­tain’s Adam Peaty looks to be a shoo-in for the 50m and 100m breast­stroke ti­tles-and also wants to lower his own world records in both events.

Peaty is threat­en­ing to be the first un­der the 57 sec­onds bar­rier over 100m with South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh push­ing him hard. There prom­ises to be a bat­tle royal in the women’s 100m freestyle with Swe­den’s Sarah Sjostrom hav­ing nar­rowly missed Cate Camp­bell’s world record of 52.06secs.

Aus­tralia’s Camp­bell is sit­ting out Bu­dapest, but her sis­ter Bronte is the reign­ing world cham­pion. How­ever, the names to beat are Si­mone Manuel of the USA and Canada’s Penny Olek­siak, who tied for gold in Rio last year. “I’m su­per ex­cited and I have been try­ing to con­trol my en­ergy for when I race,” said Manuel. “Sarah has had a great year, but there are so many oth­ers who will be tough to beat.”—AFP

Katie Ledecky

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