Short Course World Championships: Sarah Sjostrom Wins Double Gold, 50 Free & 400 Medley Relay (Day Six Women’s Recap)

SJOSTROM Sarah SWE Gold Medal 50m Freestyle Women Final Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates 21/12/2021 Etihad Arena FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) Photo Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Sarah Sjostrom -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Short Course World Championships: Sarah Sjostrom Wins Double Gold, 50 Free & 400 Medley Relay (Day Six Women’s Recap)

At the Short Course World Championships, Sarah Sjostrom saved the best for last. She had won silver medals in her first two individual events, but she won gold in a dominant performance in the women’s 50 freestyle, and less than a half-hour later, she swam the butterfly leg on Sweden’s world-champion 400 medley relay, joining sisters Louise and Sophie Hansson and anchor Michelle Coleman.

It was also a big day for the United States as Abbey Weitzeil, Claire Curzan, Katharine Berkoff and Kate Douglass won gold in the women’s 200 freestyle relay, and Emily Escobedo claimed gold in the 200 breaststroke. Meanwhile, Canada’s Maggie MacNeil won her second gold medal of the meet with a triumph in the women’s 100 butterfly.

Women’s 200 Freestyle Relay

The United States opened up the last session of the meet with a come-from-behind win in the women’s 200 free relay. Sweden had the lead through three legs as Sarah Sjostrom led off in 23.33 and then Michelle Coleman and Sara Junevik held the lead, but anchor swimmer Louise Hansson could not hold off American anchor Kate Douglass, and the U.S. won gold by 0.32.

Americans Abbey Weitzeil (23.59), Claire Curzan (23.40), Katharine Berkoff (23.81) and Douglass (23.42) combined for a time of 1:34.22, just off the American record of 1:34.03 set at the last World Championships three years ago. Interestingly, the exact same quartet tied with Canada for gold in the women’s 400 free relay back on day one, although Douglass led off that relay and Weitzeil swam the anchor leg.

Sweden took silver in 1:34.54, and the Netherlands snuck in for third in 1:34.89. The Dutch were in seventh after Kim BuschMaaike de Waard and Kira Toussaint swam their legs, but sprint star Ranomi Kromowidjojo anchored in 22.28 to lead the Dutch to a medal.

This is be a busy final night for many female sprinters, with finals in relay, the 100 fly, 50 free and 400 medley relay all on the program. Many of these swimmers will race three times on the final night, while the 17-year-old Curzan will actually be in all four of those races, covering a span of just over two hours.


Women’s 200 Breaststroke

The United States is two-for-two in gold medals on the final night after Emily Escobedo scored a surprising win in the women’s 200 breast. For most of the race, Great Britain’s Molly Renshaw held the lead, and she was actually up by more than a half-second at the halfway point. But Escobedo closed in on the third 50, and then at the finish, Escobedo, Renshaw and Russian teenager Evgeniia Chikunova hit the wall in a blanket finish

Escobedo touched in 2:17.85, three hundredths ahead of Chikunova, who in turn was just eight hundedths ahead of Renshaw. The Russian closed in 35.09, much faster than anyone else in the field, but she had to settle for silver in 2:17.88. Renshaw picked up bronze in 2:17.96. Sweden’s Sophie Hansson, the silver medalist in the 100 breast and bronze medalist in the 50 breast, also closed hard, but she had to settle for fourth in 2:18.13.

Escobedo, who turned 26 Friday, is a graduate of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. This is her first-ever appearance at World Championships, but she did win gold in the 400 medley relay and silver in the 200 breast at the 2019 World University Games. She placed third in this event at U.S. Olympic Trials behind Annie Lazor and Lilly King, both of whom went on to earn Olympic medals in the event in Tokyo.

Canada’s Tessa Cieplucha, the world champion in the 400 IM earlier in the week, placed sixth here, while her fellow University of Tennessee Volunteer Mona McSharry, the 100 breast bronze medalist, was seventh.


Women’s 100 Butterfly

American teenagers Torri Huske and Claire Curzan had the lead at the halfway point of the 100 fly final, and they were under world-record pace, but neither one could hang onto that speed over the final two lengths. Then, Maggie MacNeil came from behind to capture gold, just like she did at the 2019 World Championships and at the Tokyo Olympics, but this one was closer than expected. Sweden’s Louise Hansson put up another incredible performance at the end of the best meet of her international career to finish just six hundredths behind the Canadian.

MacNeil touched in 55.04, while Hansson earned silver in 55.10. MacNeil became the third-fastest performer all-time behind Kelsi Dahlia and Sarah Sjostrom, while Hansson moved into a tie for fifth all-time. Curzan earned bronze in 55.39, breaking the world junior record of 55.64 that Anastasiya Shkurdai first set last year and that Curzan tied in the semifinals. With her finals effort (her second of four swims on a busy evening of racing), Curzan moved into a tie for 12th all-time in the event. Huske ended up fourth, the same position that she finished at the Olympics in this event as well as in Sunday’s 50 fly final.


Women’s 50 Freestyle

For the first time at this meet, Sarah Sjostrom is an individual world champion. After previously taking silver in the 100 free (behind Siobhan Haughey) and 50 fly (behind Ranomi Kromowidjojo), Sjostrom crushed the field here by 0.23 and put up a time of 23.08. She broke the championship record of 23.19 set by Kromowidjojo in 2018 and fell just 0.15 off Kromowidjojo’s world record of 22.93.

Kromowidjojo, who was aiming for a fifth gold medal in this event after previously winning in 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2018, but she had to be content with silver after previously winning 50 fly gold in Abu Dhabi. Bronze went to Poland’s Kasia Wasick in 23.40, just ahead of the Russian Swimming Federation’s Mariia Kamaneva (23.48) and the USA’s Abbey Weitzeil (23.58). American Claire Curzan, competing in her third final of the night after the 200 free relay (gold) and 100 fly (bronze) and with the 400 medley relay still to come, took sixth in 23.91.


Women’s 400 Medley Relay

Sweden captured gold in the 200 medley relay, and the same foursome came back here to top the podium in the 400-meter event. 100 back world champion Louise Hansson led off in 56.25, well off her time from the individual event but a very solid performance considering this was her third race of the night following the 200 free relay and 100 fly final. But after that, Hansson’s younger sister Sophie Hansson put the Swedish group into the lead on breaststroke with a 1:03.70 split, and Sarah Sjostrom (54.65) extended the lead before Michelle Coleman brought it home.

Sjostrom did not race the individual 100 fly here, but she recorded the fastest fly split in the race as she won gold for the second straight women’s race following the 50 free. Sweden finished in 3:46.20, more than a second ahead of the field and good for a new European record.

The battle for silver came down to three teams, Canada, China and the United States. China, buoyed by a remarkable 1:03.25 breaststroke split from 100 breast champion Tang Qianting and a 54.93 from 200 fly gold medalist Zhang Yufei, was in second place with 100 meters to go, but Canada’s Kayla Sanchez finished hard to secure a silver medal. Canada’s Kylie MasseSydney PickremMaggie MacNeil and Sanchez finished in 3:47.36, five hundredths ahead of China’s Peng Xuwei, Tang, Zhang and Chenc Yujie (3:47.41).

The United States came very close to winning a medal with Katharine BerkoffEmily EscobedoClaire Curzan and Abbey Weitzeil, but that group ended up fourth in 3:47.68, 0.27 off the podium. Three of those swimmers won medals in the individual 100-meter events, and Escobedo was the champion in the 200 breast, but they didn’t have the last bit of speed needed to get onto the podium. Curzan was racing in her fourth race of the evening, while Weitzeil swam a 51.06 anchor leg, the quickest in the field, right after the 50 free final.