Short Course World Championships: United States and Canada Tie for Women’s 400 Free Relay Gold (Day One Women’s Recap)

USA - United States of America, DOUGLASS Kate USA, CURZAN Claire USA, BERKOFF Katharine USA, WEITZEIL Abbey USA, Gold Medal, 4x100 Freestyle Women Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates 16/12/2021 Etihad Arena FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) Photo Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Kate Douglass, Claire Curzan, Katharine Berkoff and Abbey Weitzeil swam on the U.S. women's 400 free relay team that tied for gold -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Short Course World Championships: United States and Canada Tie for Women’s 400 Free Relay Gold (Day One Women’s Recap)

The very first women’s final at the FINA Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi saw Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey take down the world record in the women’s 200 freestyle, touching in 1:50.31 to take 12 hundredths off Sarah Sjostrom’s previous mark. Later on in the session, Canada’s Tessa Cieplucha earned gold in a Tennessee Volunteers 1-2 finish in the women’s 400 IM, and then the United States and Canada tied for gold in the women’s 400 freestyle relay.

Women’s 200 Freestyle FINAL

During the entire ISL season, Hong Kong star Siobhan Haughey had been chasing the world record in the women’s 200 freestyle. The world record had belonged to Sarah Sjostrom at 1:50.43 since 2017, but Haughey went undefeated in the event while representing Energy Standard during the ISL season and twice swam the second-fastest time in history, including a mark of 1:50.65 in late November. But finally in Abu Dhabi, she got the job done.

Haughey was out in 53.81 at the halfway point, more than a half-second ahead of the field and under world-record pace. She was six tenths under at the 150-meter mark, and although she faded slightly on the way home, she had enough to push herself to the wall in 1:50.31, 12 hundredths under Sjostrom’s record.

Previously, Haughey captured silver medals in the 200 free and 100 free at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, but this is her first gold medal at a global event and the first-ever world title in swimming for Hong Kong. On deck after the race, Haughey was awarded a $50,000-bonus check from FINA for breaking a world record.

Haughey was the overwhelming favorite coming into the race, and the only question was whether she would break the world record. The battle was for silver, and Canada’s Rebecca Smith emerged as the favorite for that medal when she tied Haughey for the top qualifying mark in prelims. Smith backed up that effort in the final as she was in second place for the entire length. The 21-year-old from Canada touched in 1:52.24 to earn her first-ever international medal in an individual event.

Meanwhile, American Paige Madden earned bronze in 1:53.01. Madden was sixth after 50 meters and fifth at the halfway point before she surged to the finish. Madden, a silver medalist for the U.S. on the 800 free relay at the Olympics, is competing at her first World Championships. Madden finished about a half-second ahead of Slovenia’s Katja Fain (1:53.48), Canada’s Summer McIntosh (1:53.65) and France’s Charlotte Bonnet (1:53.68).


Women’s 50 Breaststroke Semifinals

It took under 30 seconds to qualify for the 50 breast final, but the big surprise came with the disqualification of Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson, the defending world champion in this event and the world-record holder. Atkinson was disqualified for initiating a downward dolphin-kick motion at the finish. The 33-year-old Atkinson will also be the favorite in the 100 breast, so her championships are not done yet.

The top qualifying mark went to Russia’s Nika Godun, who actually touched ahead of Atkinson in the second semifinal, while Finland’s Ida Hulkko qualified second in 26.62. Ireland’s Mona Mc Sharry, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, qualified fourth in 29.65, while NCAA rival Sophie Hansson of Sweden and NC State tied for fourth with Italy’s Benedetta Pilato in 29.76. Pilato claimed silver in the 50 breast at the long course world championships in 2019, and she holds the long course world record in this event.

Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko, Belgium’s Fenny Lecluyse and Finland’s Veera Kivirinta also got into the top-eight. Notably, 100 breaststroke Olympic gold medalist Lydia Jacoby of the USA finished well out of the mix. She touched eighth in her semifinal heat in 30.21, and she ended up 13th overall. Jacoby will aim to rebound in the 100 breast later in the week.


Women’s 400 IM FINAL

At the halfway point, Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant of the United States looked to be in strong position as she led the race by more than a second from lane eight. But on the breaststroke leg, Canada’s Tessa Cieplucha stormed into the lead, and Ireland’s Ellen Walshe went with her into second place. On the freestyle leg, the USA’s Melanie Margalis surged and nearly ran down the top two swimmers, but Cieplucha ended up taking gold and Walshe earned silver. That made it a 1-2 finish for the Tennessee Volunteers, as Cieplucha previously swam in Knoxville while Walshe is in her first season with Tennessee.

Cieplucha touched in 4:25.55, while Walshe was about a second back in 4:26.52. Walsh, 20, held off the 29-year-old Margalis by just 11 hundredths as the American hit the wall in 4:26.63 to make the podium in the 400 IM at the second straight Short Course World Championships. Margalis is competing for the first time since she missed the U.S. Olympic team, topping out at a fourth-place finish in the 400 IM at Olympic Trials. Weyant, meanwhile, ended up fourth in 4:27.55.


Women’s 100 Backstroke Semifinals

In a field of excellent backstrokers, the surprise top seed here was Sweden’s Louise Hansson, best known for her butterfly results throughout her career at the University of Southern California and in international competition. Hansson placed fifth in the 100 fly final in Tokyo, and the only individual medals of her international career have been bronze medals in the 100 fly at this year’s long course European Championships and a bronze in the 200 IM at the European Short Course Champs in 2015. Now, she will be in pole position in the 100 back.

However, Hansson will face four tough swimmers in the final. The Netherlands’ Kira Toussaint and the USA’s Rhyan White tied for second in 56.05, just two hundredths ahead of Canada’s Kylie Masse (56.07) and another three hundredths ahead of American Katharine Berkoff (56.10). That means the top five swimmers in the final will be separated by just a quarter of a second. Masse was the silver medalist in the event at the Tokyo Olympics, while White ended up fourth in that final.

Belarus’ Anastasiya Shkurdai, the Netherlands’ Maaike de Waard and the Czech Republic’s Simona Kubova were the remaining finalists.


Women’s 400 Freestyle Relay FINAL

An exhilarating, four-team battle in the 400 free relay final came down to 34 hundredths, and in the end, there was a tie for the gold medal between the United States and Canada. The American squad of Kate Douglass (52.39), Claire Curzan (52.25), Katharine Berkoff (52.38) and Abbey Weitzeil (51.50) finished in 3:38.52, and so did the Canadian group of Kayla Sanchez (51.73), Maggie MacNeil (52.07), Rebecca Smith (52.11) and Katerine Savard (52.62).

Smith, the silver medalist in the 200 free earlier in the evening, put the Canadians into the lead on the third leg, but star U.S. sprinter Weitzeil shot ahead by two hundredths on the first 50 of her leg. But then Savard was not done, and she fought back to touch at exactly the same time as Weitzeil. The relay is believed to be the first-ever tie for a relay gold medal at the Short Course World Championships.

Both countries were swimming without many of their top-level swimmers. Canada was missing anchor swimmer Penny Oleksiak (who had by far the fastest split) off its silver-medal-winning squad from the Olympics, while Weitzeil was the only American swimmer back from a group that claimed bronze in Tokyo.

Sweden, led off by Sarah Sjostrom in 51.45 and anchored by Louise Hansson in 51.88, captured bronze in 3:28.80. Michelle Coleman and Sophie Hansson (Louise’s younger sister) handled the middle two legs for the Swedes. The Netherlands, meanwhile, just missed the podium after veteran Ranomi Kromowidjojo led off in 52.22, Marrit Steenbergen split 51.76 on the second leg and Kira Toussaint came home in 51.82. The Dutch finished in 3:28.86, just six hundredths away from the bronze.


DeepBlue Media is Swimming World’s official supplier of photos from the Short Course World Championships.