After a bitterly frustrating week, the Israeli delegation to the swimming World
Championships in Barcelona was finally given a reason to smile on
Guy Barnea and Jonatan Kopolev made blue-and-white history when
they both advanced to the final of the 50-meter backstroke, which will take
place on Sunday evening.
Barnea, who finished the 50m back final in sixth
position at the championships two years ago, won his semifinal on Saturday in a
time of 24.73 seconds, clocking the third fastest time of the eight swimmers who
qualified for the final.
Kopolev, who became the first Israeli swimmer to
win a gold medal at the European Championships last May when he took the gold in
the 50m back, swam alongside Barnea in the first semi and sneaked into the final
by four hundredths of a second, setting a time of 24.95s to end the semi in
After the first six days of the championships, Israel was
still waiting for its first semifinalist in the event. Since the 1991
championships, Israel has had at least one semifinalist in each edition of the
Apart from the 2005 contest, Israel has also always had at least
one finalist at the global championships since 1994.
Barnea and Kopolev
ensured both streaks were extended on Saturday and will be dreaming of claiming
a medal on the final day of the championships on Sunday.
It will be the
first time that two Israelis are participating in the same World Championships
final, with no Israeli swimmer ever finishing higher than sixth position at the
Meanwhile, American teenager Katie Ledecky set a world record to
win the women’s 800 meters freestyle gold medal on Saturday and complete a rare
treble of distance titles.
The 16-year-old, who smashed the 1,500 meters
world best to win gold on Tuesday and also won Sunday’s 400 meters, clocked a
time of eight minutes 13.86 seconds at the Palau Sant Jordi.
inside the previous best of 8:14.10 set by Rebecca Adlington to win gold at the
Beijing Olympics in 2008.
It was her fourth title of the week – she also
swam in the winning US 4x200 freestyle relay team – and she is only the second
woman to win all three distance freestyle titles at a single world
German Hannah Stockbauer won the treble at the 2003
edition, also in Barcelona.
Dane Lotte Friis, who finished second to
Ledecky in the 1,500, took 800 silver in 8:16.32 and Lauren Boyle of New
Zealand, also third in the 400 and 1,500, won the bronze in a time of 8:18.58.
American teenager Missy Franklin captured a recordequaling fifth gold medal at a
single world championships when she won a second consecutive 200 meters
backstroke title on Saturday.
The bubbly 18-year-old, who can claim the
record for herself if favorites United States win Sunday’s 4x100 medley relay,
clocked a championship record time of two minutes 04.76 seconds.
already had golds this week in 100 backstroke, 200 freestyle and the 4x100 and
4x200 freestyle relays and she came fourth in Friday’s 100 freestyle.
fifth triumph means she has matched a feat previously achieved only by American
Tracy Caulkins in 1978 and Australian Libby Trickett in 2007.
to comprehend but I’m so excited because 200 back is my favorite race so it was
so fun to get out there,” Franklin said in an interview with Spanish television
Asked what her limit might be, she added: “I don’t know,
I don’t think I can choose.
“I’m so flattered I had so many opportunities
for all these races and it’s so exciting to be able to swim so many times
“It’s an honor and a privilege and I enjoy every single time I get
in the water.
“Tomorrow I have the morning off and get prepared for the
relay tomorrow night.
It’s going to be so much fun and it’s also my
Lithuanian teenager Ruta Meilutyte claimed her second
world record of the week when she beat Russian Yuliya Efimova’s previous best in
the women’s 50 meters breaststroke.
Meilutyte, who swam faster than
anyone before her in the semifinals of the 100 breaststroke on Monday, clocked a
time of 29.48 seconds in her semifinal to beat Efimova’s mark of 29.78 set in
qualifying earlier on Saturday.
“Two world records is a dream come true,”
Meilutyte, who took gold in the 100 final on Tuesday, told Spanish
“I’ve been really close to the world record and I really
wanted it and I’m really happy,” the 16-year-old added.
contributed to this report •