Short Course World Championships: Alessandro Miressi Wins 100 Free, Anchors Italy to Medley Relay Gold (Day Six Men’s Recap)

MIRESSI Alessandro ITA RI 100m Freestyle Men Semifinal Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates 20/12/2021 Etihad Arena FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) Photo Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Alessandro Miressi -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Short Course World Championships: Alessandro Miressi Wins 100 Free, Anchors Italy to Medley Relay Gold (Day Six Men’s Recap)

On the final day of the Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi, Germany’s Florian Wellbrock secured a gold medal and a new world record in the men’s 1500 freestyle, and in the very next event, Italy’s Alessandro Miressi edged out American Ryan Held to win gold in the men’s 100 free. Later, Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki came from behind to win the fourth short course world title of his career in the 200 back, and Nic Fink lowered his own American record to edge out Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi in the 50 breast.

Finally, Lorenzo Mora, Martinenghi, Matteo Rivolta and Miressi securing the fifth gold medal of the meet for the Italian men in the 400 medley relay.

Men’s 1500 Freestyle

Germany’s Florian Wellbrock has become one of the best and most consistent distance swimmers in the world over the past four years, and he secured that status with a new world record in the 1500 freestyle on his way to his first short course world title. In the 1500 free final, Wellbrock raced against longtime rivals Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine and Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy as well as young star Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia, the Olympic gold medalist in the 1500 free.

But Wellbrock established a slight edge from the beginning, and he stayed close to the world-record pace before moving ahead of the superimposed red line for good over the final 300 meters. Wellbrock actually had the lead in the Olympic finals of both the 800 free and 1500 free with 50 meters to go, but he faded to fourth in the 800 free and bronze in the 1500 free. There was no fading for the 24-year-old German in this final. He accelerated into the finish on the way to a final time of 14:06.88. That smashed the previous world record of 14:08.06 that Paltrinieri set in 2015. Wellbrock’s previous lifetime best was actually the 14:25.79 that he swam in Monday’s prelims to qualify third for the final.

Meanwhile, the silver medal went to Hafnaoui as he pulled about a half-second ahead of Romanchuk over the final 400 meters. Hafnaoui touched in 14:10.94, taking almost eight seconds off countryman Ous Mellouli’s African record of 14:18.79. He also became the fifth-fastest performer in history behind a bevy of big names: Wellbrock, Paltrinieri, Romanchuk and Australian great Grant Hackett.

Romanchuk took bronze in 14:11.47, while Paltrinieri could not stay close to the top-three swimmers after the first 300 meters. He ended up fourth in 14:21.00.

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Men’s 100 Freestyle

The United States’ Ryan Held has performed remarkably at the Short Course World Championships, and for about 95 meters, he looked to be in position for a world title in the 100 free. He was out three tenths ahead of the field in 21.36, and he still had the lead through 75 meters, but Italy’s Alessandro Miressi tracked down Held over the final 25 meters. Miressi split 23.66 on the back half, much quicker than the rest of the field and more than a half-second quicker than Held.

Miressi touched in 45.57, six hundredths ahead of Held in 45.63. Held claimed his second individual silver medal of the week after he was second to Ben Proud in Sunday’s 50 free. Canada’s Joshua Liendo earned bronze in 45.82, also repeating his finish from the 50 free. It took a sub-46-second performance to win a medal as Russian Swimming Federation’s Vladislav Grinev ended up fourth in 46.05.

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Men’s 200 Backstroke

Shaine Casas of the United States was looking for a sweep of the 100 and 200 backstroke gold medals, and he led for the first 150 meters with Germany’s Christian Diener just behind him. But over the final 100 meters, Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki tracked down Casas and blasted ahead with an incredible final turn. Kawecki, swimming in lane eight, was in fifth place at the halfway point and a second-and-a-half behind Casas, but the 30-year-old Kawecki came all the way back to win his fourth short course world title in the 200 back. He previously won the title in 2012, 2014 and 2016 before taking bronze at the 2018 championships.

Kawecki touched in 1:48.68, 0.13 ahead of Casas. The American claimed his second individual medal with his time of 1:48.81, and Diener took bronze in 1:48.97, just 0.16 behind Casas. Italy’s Lorenzo Mora closed hard, but he just missed getting into the medal mix with his time of 1:49.27.

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Men’s 50 Breaststroke

For the second time this week, Nic Fink is an individual world champion. After storming home to secure gold in the 200 breast, he added another win in the 50 breast. He swam a 25.53 to lower his own American record that he had already broken twice this month, including in Monday’s semifinals. Here, Fink got the lead with great underwater pullouts and breakouts off the start and turn, and then he held off Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi (25.55) by just two hundredths. Fink took 0.15 off his American record of 25.68 set Monday. Including relays, Fink has now won five medals at this meet (including two gold), and he could add another with the men’s 400 medley relay still to come later in the session.

Brazil’s Joao Gomes finished third in 25.80, four hundredths ahead of Belarus’ Ilya Shymanovich (25.84). Shymanovich, the world champion in the 100 breast earlier in the meet, had been the heavy favorite for gold after tying the world record (25.25) last month, but Shymanovich came up off his start more than a half-bodylength behind, and he could never recover and catch up to Fink and Martinenghi. Shymanovich’s semifinal time of 25.55 would have been enough to tie for silver here, but in the moment, he did not have his best form.

Notably, Turkey’s Emre Sakci swam a 25.52 in the semifinals, but he was disqualified for a dolphin-kick motion at the finish. Numerous athletes have been disqualified in breaststroke events for dolphin kicks this week as officials are now allowed to initiate DQs using underwater camera.

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Men’s 400 Medley Relay

The Italian men posted a phenomenal week at Short Course Worlds with five gold medals. Alberto Razzetti (200 fly), Matteo Rivolta (100 fly) and Alessandro Miressi (100 free) all won individual gold, and the men’s 200 free relay squad also topped the podium. They wrapped up the meet with another triumph in the men’s medley relay. The team of Lorenzo Mora (50.34), Nicolo Martinenghi (55.94), Rivolta (48.43) and Miressi (45.05) put up a time of 3:19.76, breaking the championship record set by the United States in 2018.

Marginenghi, the silver medalist in the 50 breast and 100 breast, moved Italy into second place at the halfway point before the team’s two individual winners, Rivolta and Miressi, each posted the fastest split on their respective strokes.

The United States team of Shaine CasasNic FinkTrenton Julian and Ryan Held claimed silver in 3:20.50. Three of those swimmers captured medals in their individual events, although all three had raced in individual events earlier in the session, while Julian was a surprise participant on this relay instead of Tom Shields. Casas got off to a rough start when his backstroke wedge fell down and hit his arm prior to the start, and he ended up fourth after his leg, his 50.44 split more than a second slower than his time from the individual event. But Fink blasted a 55.27 for the relay’s fastest split, and Julian and Held did enough to finish second.

The Russian Swimming Federation claimed bronze with Kliment KolesnikovDanil SemianinovAndrei Minakov and Aleksandr Shchegolev combining for a time of 3:20.65. The rest of the field was almost three seconds behind the top three teams.

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