World Championships: Kristof Milak Dominates 100 Fly Final for Second Title This Week

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Kristof Milak -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships: Kristof Milak Dominates 100 Fly Final for Second Title This Week

Two days earlier, Hungary’s Kristof Milak had delivered in front of his home fans in the men’s 200 butterfly when he smashed his own world record and won gold by more than three seconds. Milak said after that race that he hoped world-record holder and Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel would be able to compete in the 100 fly, which would have been the most anticipated showdown of the meet, but when Dressel officially withdrew from the meet the next day, Milak instantly became the enormous favorite in the two-length event.

But could Milak challenge or even take down Dressel’s world record? Milak had finished just 0.23 behind Dressel when the American set the world record in the Tokyo Olympic final, and Milak’s lifetime best of 49.68 launched him ahead of Michael Phelps as the second-fastest performer in history, so a record shot was definitely in the conversation after Milak’s 200 fly performance.

Milak walked out for the final to another enormous ovation from the Duna Arena crowd, and he was already ahead of the field when he touched at the 50-meter mark in 23.42, seven hundredths ahead of the United States’ Michael Andrew. Milak was four tenths off world-record pace, but he finished in 26.03 in his Olympic final performance, so the record was in serious jeopardy. On the back stretch, Milak pulled away from the field, but he could not find the pop in his stroke needed to accelerate to the wall for a world-record swim.

Still, Milak clinched his second world title of the meet with a time of 50.14, matching his semifinal mark. Milak admitted that he was not pleased with his time, and Dressel does still own the fastest time in the world this year with his 50.01 from the U.S. International Team Trials in April, but Milak still earned the third world title and fourth World Championships medal of his career.

“Obviously, I’m not satisfied with the time as I swam exactly the same time as in the semis. But I won the gold, and that’s the most important now,” Milak said. “I’m so proud to be Hungarian, and I’m overjoyed that here in the arena, 4000 people were cheering for me. I hope, in front of the TVs and all around the world, all 15 million Magyars gave me their support. I’m so grateful for everyone behind me – that makes my quest much easier.”

The clash for silver came down to the wire as two swimmers who trailed the field at the halfway point came through the field to get onto the podium. Japan’s Naoki Mizunuma, who was in eighth place at the halfway point, split 26.94 to pass everyone but Milak, and he took silver in 50.94. Canada’s Josh Liendo went from seventh to third on the way home, and he earned bronze in 50.97. The medal was Liendo’s second bronze this week after he was also third in the 100 freestyle. For Liendo, the race was his second of the evening after the 50 free final, where he placed fifth and ended up just four hundredths off the podium.

Andrew was also returning to the pool after the 50 free final, where he took silver, and he ended up with a strong fourth-place showing here at 51.11. Just behind was Australia’s Matt Temple in 51.15, while the Olympic bronze medalist in this event, Switzerland’s Noe Ponti, ended up eighth in 51.51.

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