Barnea, Kopolev advance in Worlds to Israel’s delight

After a bitterly frustrating week, the Israeli delegation to the swimming World Championships in Barcelona was finally given a reason to smile.

GUY BARNEA 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
After a bitterly frustrating week, the Israeli delegation to the swimming World Championships in Barcelona was finally given a reason to smile on Saturday.
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 fourth place.
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 worlds.
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 event.
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.
She was 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 championships.
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.
Franklin 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.
Her fifth triumph means she has matched a feat previously achieved only by American Tracy Caulkins in 1978 and Australian Libby Trickett in 2007.
“It’s hard 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 broadcaster TVE.
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 here.
“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 favorite relay.”
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 television.
“I’ve been really close to the world record and I really wanted it and I’m really happy,” the 16-year-old added.
Reuters contributed to this report •