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BARCELONA, Spain, August 3. THE best world records I’ve witnessed are the ones I don’t see coming. That happened today at the world swimming championships in the Palau Sant Jordi when Yuliya Efimova blazed through the 50 breaststroke in 29.78 to break Jessica Hardy’s record of 29.80.
Hardy’s record was done as a split during the 1:04.42 world record she swam in 2009 at the U.S. Open meet in Federal Way, Wash., and because of that, I regarded it as one of the softest world records set in the 2008-2009 full-body polyurethane techsuit era. But it lasted for three years in the post-techsuit era, as people chipped away at the 30-second barrier, and Efimova was one of them.
According to Efimova, she wasn’t in the best condition to break a world record in the 50 breast this morning. After winning the 200 breaststroke last night with a 2:19.41 to become the only woman to dip under 2:20 twice, the last thing her body wanted to do was sleep.
“I don’t know how that happened,” she said. “I didn’t sleep a lot last night. I didn’t do a warm-up and I am so sleepy and to swim a world record is so crazy. I’ll try to go even faster later.”
I’ve laid awake many nights after swimming out of my mind, replaying the race over and over and over in my head. As tired as my body was, my mind had trouble shutting down. So, it’s a huge testament to Efimova that she was able to put up the fastest time in history this morning. I doubt it will last long. Ruta Meilutyte was just waking up this morning, putting up only a 30.07. She’ll be tough in semifinals, which is when she broke the world record in the 100 breast on Monday. Expect Efimova to challenge her time again tonight, as will Hardy, who got under 30 seconds for the first time in textile suit.
This was the second time Hardy has seen her world record fall in front of her, but she did not appear to be discouraged, since this one fell at the hands of her Trojan Swim Club teammate.
“It’s exciting,” Hardy said. “I train with Yuliya every day at home. We like to push each other a lot in practice and I know she can swim really, really fast. I know it’s going to be a great final and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Obviously, it was a good day for Dave Salo, the head coach of the women’s USA team. As head coach of the Trojan Swim Club, he’s trained Hardy and Efimova, so he knew swims like this were possible.
“Yuliya went into the (World) University Games with a little bit more vision towards the World Championships,” Salo said. “She’s been better here.”
The busiest swimmer in Barcelona. If you think Ryan Lochte, Katinka Hosszu and Missy Franklin have monster schedules at the world swimming championships, you haven’t noticed Ous Mellouli. On the first day of the world championships on August 20, he won the 5K open water swim. Two days later, he won bronze in the 10K. A week later, he was in the pool racing in the final of the 800 freestyle, where he placed eighth. Today, he couldn’t get into his heat swim of the 1500 freestyle, finishing 11th overall with a 15:07.89.
“it’s just been exhausting mentally and physically,” Mellouli said after the mile. “It’s been one of the toughest things I’ve done in my career, but I was able to duke it out with these young guys for medals.”
Mellouli became the first person to win Olympic titles in the pool and open water when he won the 10K title last year to go along with his 1500 gold from 2008. It’s too early to tell if he’ll be able to challenge for medals in the pool or open water in 2016, and Melloui was quick to say that he’s not sure what 2014 has in store for him. But it’s not the end for the 29-year-old.
“I was physically fit to race. You just have to switch your stroke and stroke rate, and that’s hard,” he said. “I’m just trying to find that easy speed, those 59 (second splits) that are smooth and controlled. But we will and we’ll be back.
The men’s 1500 freestyle field in tomorrow’s final will be filled with superstars. Sun Yang is obviously the headliner, with the perennial runner-up Ryan Cochrane leading the battle for silver. But after watching the 800 freestyle final, will there be some who find the confidence to take down Sun for gold? Sun was not having the swim many expected in the 800 final, so that could give some of his competitors confidence. One person to watch is Pal Joensen. Swimming World’s Nordic correspondent Rokur Jakupsstovu told me that Joensen, who represents the Faroe Islands at worlds and Denmark at the Olympics, will be in the race tomorrow. Joensen miscalculated the pace of the 800 final, finding himself more than two body lengths behind for most of the race and finished seventh. Jakupsstovu expects Joensen to be more aggressive in the opening of the race, and I think we could see this 23-year-old finally making his breakthrough after showing promise for the past three years.