Kopelev squeaks into 50m backstroke final

Israel has first swimmer in medal contention at Worlds, American Dressel nabs 3 golds in one night.

July 30, 2017 04:26
2 minute read.
Kopelev squeaks into 50m backstroke final

Jonatan Kopelev of Israel celebrates victory in the men's 50m backstroke final at the 2012 European Swimming Championship in Debrecen. (photo credit: REUTERS/LASZLO BALOGH)


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For the first time since 2013, Israel will have a representative in a final at the swimming world championships on Sunday when Jonatan Kopelev swims the 50-meter backstroke in Budapest, Hungary.

The 25-year-old advanced to the final from eighth place overall in a time of 24.84 seconds on Saturday, edging Grigory Tarasevich of Russia by two hundredths of a second for the final berth to Sunday’s race.

Kopelev, the European champion in the 50m back from 2012, will take part in the world final for a second time, coming eighth in 2013. He reached the semifinals two years ago, finishing 11th overall.

For the first time in 10 years, Israel didn’t have a single finalist in the previous world championships in Kazan, Russia, in 2015. Kopelev ensured that wouldn’t be the case once more in Budapest, with Yakov Toumarkin and Andrea Murez the only Israelis to even qualify for a semifinal until Saturday.

Meanwhile, Caeleb Dressel of the United States became the first swimmer to win three gold medals in a single evening at the world championships after producing a trio of storming performances on Saturday.

Dressel’s sprint heroics were compiled in just over 90 minutes, interspersed by Sarah Sjostrom’s world record in the women’s 50 meters freestyle on another stunning night’s racing at the Duna Arena.

Dressel began his historic evening in the men’s 50m freestyle, posting a world textile best time of 21.15 seconds. Brazil’s Bruno Fratus took silver, 0.12 seconds back, with Ben Proud of Britain snatching bronze.

The 20-year-old American then had 33 minutes to ready himself for the men’s 100m butterfly.

Dressel never trailed and delivered two lengths of sizzling pace in 49.86 seconds. Edging ever closer to Michael Phelps’s 2009 world record, he finished 0.04 seconds shy of the eight-year-old mark.

After just over an hour to recover, Dressel then led the US quartet out in a world-record rout in the 4x100 meters mixed freestyle relay.

The top-ranked Sjostrom had cut a disconsolate figure after missing out on 100m freestyle gold on Friday but she returned brilliantly to win the 50m butterfly final, recording the fastest ever indoor time of 24.60 seconds and touching 0.17 seconds outside of the world record she set at an outdoor event in Sweden three years ago.

Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands took silver. She held off Farida Osman by 0.01 seconds, the Egyptian setting an African record for bronze.

Sjostrom then went one better in the 50m freestyle semifinals as she shaved 0.06 seconds off Britta Steffen’s 2009 world-record time of 23.73 seconds.

Dressel’s exploits put Katie Ledecky’s unerring speed in the shade as the American routinely swam to women’s 800m freestyle gold in eight minutes 12.68 seconds.

Australia’s quiet world championship was overturned by defending champion Emily Seebohm in the women’s 200m backstroke.

Hopes had rested heavily on Seebohm with Australia on the cusp of finishing without a world title for the first time in 31 years.

Amid a cacophony of noise, Seebohm shut out the pressure to clock two minutes 05.68 seconds, an Oceanic record, as her final arm stretch was enough to hold off local hope Katinka Hosszu by 0.17 seconds. Kathleen Baker of the US took bronze.

To end the night, the US freestyle team’s victory never looked in doubt.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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