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Commentary by Jeff Commings
BARCELONA, Spain, July 29. WHEN Cameron van der Burgh hurt his knee in late June, he stepped out of the Paris Open, starting a wave of speculation that he would either not attend the world championships or be severely limited in his ability to win the 100 breast in Barcelona.
When Cesar Cielo emerged from two knee surgeries last fall, even he might have thought a chance to defend his world titles in the 50 butterfly and 50 freestyle were shaky at best. After all, you need knee strength to vault off the blocks in the splash-and-dash.
But tonight, both defied the odds and found themselves on the medal stand in their respective events. Van der Burgh collected silver in the 100 breast, while Cielo successfully defended his gold medal in the 50 fly.
So far, we’ve seen three finals in individual events on the men’s side. In addition to the 50 fly and 100 breast tonight, Sun Yang won the 400 free and as clearly emotional after emerging from the deck. At first, he was shouting like a gladiator who had vanquished the competition, then was seen sobbing heavily less than a minute later. His adversity story to his medal wasn’t so much physical as it was mental. He’d lost a lot of training in the past six months as he dealt with disagreements from the Chinese swimming federation, forced to remain in China to train instead of returning to Australia to work with Denis Cotterell. But even with a rocky year since double Olympic gold, Sun remains the king of distance swimming.
Every medal at the world championships has a story behind them. Unfortunately not all of them will be told, but they are undoubtedly moving tales. I would imagine Katinka Hosszu’s story of moving from her longtime training base at the University of Southern California back to her home in Hungary involves a lot of doubts about the decision, followed by inspiration after ruling the FINA World Cup and ending with the second-fastest 200 IM in textile suit history.
Missy Franklin will be one of the biggest supporters of the newly-approved backstroke starting platform when it officially enters competition in a few months. One of Franklin’s feet slipped on the start in the 100 backstroke semifinal, causing her to fight a little bit harder for that top qualifying spot for tomorrow’s final. I’m sure she’s not the only swimmer to slip on the start, and will not be the last one to do so before the meet is done.
For NCAA swimming fans: The University of Southern California is doing very well in the medal count in swimming here in Barcelona. If you count open water swimming, the Trojans have won three gold medals. Haley Anderson and Ous Mellouli each won the 5K swim, and Hosszu won the 200 IM tonight. The Golden Bears from UC-Berkeley have won five medals, with Natalie Coughlin, Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin scoring medals in the freestyle relays, Lauren Boyle taking bronze in the 400 freestyle and Dana Vollmer scoring the bronze tonight in the 100 fly. Georgia and Auburn sit with two medals. Georgia’s came from Shannon Vreeland and Megan Romano in the free relay, while Auburn got their two in the men’s 50 butterfly from Cesar Cielo and Fred Bousquet.