PHOENIX, Arizona, December 13. THE United States claimed three more gold medals today at the short course swimming world championships, with one of them coming in a big surprise from Olivia Smoliga in the 100 backstroke, swimming in her first major international competition. Smoliga was in lane eight for the final, and moved up from fourth at the 50-meter mark to first at the finish. The win caps off a great fall season for Smoliga, who broke the national high school record in the 100 back last month.
Matt Grevers made it a sweep of the backstrokes for the United States, using his 6-8 frame to deny Stanislav Donets the chance to repeat as short course world champion with a time of 49.89, a full second off Nick Thoman's world record.
The other gold for the Americans came in the men's 800 free relay, with Lochte splitting 1:41.17, faster than he swam to win the 200 free gold medal yesterday and nine hundredths off his American record.
Kevin Cordes also is competing in his first major international meet, and he raced to a bronze medal in the 100 breast. Italy's Fabio Scozzoli upgraded his 2010 silver to gold this year, thanks in part to Cameron van der Burgh's absence, and Damir Dugonjic, who still trains at his alma mater at Berkeley, got the silver this year.
Current or former swimmers from Cal-Berkeley got on the medal stand two more times, first in the men's 100 fly when Tom Shields touched second behind Chad Le Clos. Shields, himself a superb underwater dolphin kicker, wasn't able to match Le Clos' turns, but did get ahead of teammate Ryan Lochte, who won bronze in his first major international 100 fly race since 2006. Lauren Boyle, a former All-American for the Golden Bears, broke away from Lotte Friis at the 500-meter mark and won in 8:08.62. Chloe Sutton was in a three-way race from the bronze, and got that medal with an 8:15.53.
Vlad Morozov will go head-to-head with Florent Manaudou in the 50 free final tomorrow. Morozov had a great start to his meet yesterday, breaking the meet record in the 100 free leading off Russia's relay, and Manaudou is coming in as the reigning Olympic champion. They'll be joined in that 50 free final by Anthony Ervin and George Bovell, who battled each other through the World Cup series.
We've got full recaps of all the finals on swimmingworld.com, including that great win in the men's 400 IM by Japan's Daiya Seto and Ruta Meilutyte's victory in the 50 breaststroke.