World Championships: Sarah Sjostrom Wins Fourth Straight Title In 50 Fly; Henique & Zhang On Podium

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Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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Sarah Sjostrom won a record fourth consecutive 50 fly title at the World Championships in Budapest.

Sjostrom won gold in 2015, 2017 and 2019 to become the only woman to win three titles in the one-length event.

On Friday, she wrote yet another entry into the record books with victory in 24.95 before dashing off for the 50 free semis 15 minutes later.

Melanie Henique won silver in 25.31 – 11 years after bronze at Shanghai 2011 – with Zhang Yufei taking bronze in 25.32 and Farida Osman of Egypt setting a new African record of 25.38 in fourth.

Sjostrom won her first world title at Rome 2009 and now stands second only to Michael Phelps in terms of individual medal counts.

The Swede has 18 among a 19-strong total while Phelps finished his career with 20 in an overall tally of 33, including 13 relay medals.

She said:

“It feels unreal that I’ve been able to be at this level for so long. I won my first title (world) title in 2009 – Michael Phelps was still swimming at that time and I was really looking up to him.

“So,yeah, it feels amazing to still be around and still win the medals and I’ve learned that there’s nothing I can take for granted.

“I am very proud of it.”

The nine-time world champion set a world record of 24.43 at Boras, Sweden, in July 2014, sending ripples across pooldecks around the world.

It was half a second inside the standard held by fellow Swede Therese Alshammar since 2009 and as perfect as swim as possible.

She recalled:

“That time is ridiculous. Something I’ve learned about swimming is sometimes it doesn’t really matter how hard you train, how well-prepared you are, how strong you feel in the gym or in the pool.

“When it matters it’s sometimes just the timing in your stroke and the feeling you have mentally coming up to the race.

“That’s the things that’s going to make the difference when it really matters in the finals.”

Sjostrom feared for her career in February last year when she fell on ice south of Stockholm, Sweden, breaking her elbow in the process and being forced to undergo subsequent surgery.

Not only did she manage to recover in time to race in Tokyo but Sjostrom won silver in the 50 free, a miraculous outcome in the circumstances.

Those dark days when she feared that all her preparation and planning for the Olympics would come to nought has had an impact on her outlook.

She said:

“I am not taking it for granted anymore that I am going to be on top of the podium and that I am going to race the best swimmers in the world all the time.

“I know it can change very quick so I am trying to enjoy it much more.”

She stood back on the blocks, delaying going into the dive position to the final seconds.

It’s something she has been working on with the likes of Ben Proud, renowned for his dive, and who won the 50 free title in Budapest tonight.

Sjostrom said:

“I just felt like I needed to start playing with some new technique with my start because I feel like I’ve been stuck with my technique and you can see I am still quite far behind when it comes to 15m, 20m.

“I know that’s not when you win the race but I still want to improve that part.

“I’ve been looking at other swimmers like Ben Proud – I have been training with him and I’ve seen he does something similar and some American swimmers stand up before.

“I just felt like I wanted to try it before: I feel very good in training when I do it but I haven’t really figured it out in the race yet.

“Whenever I am able to make it work 100% in a race, I think it’s going to make a difference when I have learned the technique.”

Results

  1. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE); 24.95
  2. Melanie Henique (FRA); 25.31
  3. Zhang Yufei (CHN); 25.32
  4. Farida Osman (EGY); 25.38
  5. Claire Curzan (USA); 25.43
  6. Torri Huske (USA); 25.45
  7. Marie Wattel (FRA); 25.79
  8. Maaike de Waard (NED); 25.85
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