World Championships: United States Gets Lineup Correct, Cruises to Mixed Medley Relay Gold

HUSKE Torri USA 100m Butterfly Women Final Swimming FINA 19th World Championships Budapest 2022 Budapest, Duna Arena 19/06/22 Photo Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Torri Huske -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships: United States Gets Lineup Correct, Cruises to Mixed Medley Relay Gold

One year ago, the Olympic debut of the mixed 400 medley relay left the United States frustrated and without a medal. Tactical errors in picking a lineup left the Americans in fifth place, their worst finish in any relay in Olympic history, and a full 1.6 seconds away from the bronze medal. But this year, the American coaches did not repeat those mistakes, and they put together a lineup good enough to claim a world title in a dominating performance.

The U.S. started off with Hunter Armstrong on the backstroke leg, and after Armstrong earned bronze in the men’s 100 back Monday, he actually beat world-record-breaker Thomas Ceccon to the wall, 52.14 to 52.26. After that, Nic Fink dove in for his second race of the night after previously edging out Nicolo Martinenghi for gold in the 50 breaststroke, and Fink blasted a 57.86 split that was tops in the field.

Then, the Americans turned to two female swimmers, Torri Huske and Claire Curzan. Huske, the world champion in the 100 fly two days earlier, split 56.17 on that leg (the fastest women’s split) before Curzan anchored in 52.62, the second-fastest women’s freestyle split behind Australia’s Shayna Jack (52.55). The Americans’ final time was 3:38.79, more than 2.5 seconds ahead of runner-up Australia.

“I was super grateful for the lead,” Curzan said in a post-race interview with NBC Sports. “I knew they were going to kill it, so I just wanted to carry the momentum. It’s a super tough race, the 100 free, but I think hearing the crowd and getting the energy before the race really carried me home.”

Fink, the oldest swimmer on the U.S. relay by more than seven years at age 28, had never won a World Championships gold before Tuesday, after earning two in one night, he could only praise the young swimmers (21, 19 and 17) that he teamed up with to produce this golden effort.

“That’s an awesome crew,” Fink said. “Those guys are young, and they are hungry. I was confident that I would be able to step up and perform, but it made it way easier knowing that those guys, they don’t even have much international experience yet, and they are just crushing it. You have to rely on yourself, but most importantly, you have to rely on your teammates in a relay situation like that, and everyone delivered.”

The Americans had originally intended to go with a group of Regan Smith, Fink, Caeleb Dressel and Huske, but Dressel was unable to swim in the session for health reasons, so they had to make a last-minute switch to use Armstrong and Curzan and move Huske to butterfly. That move worked out, largely because Fink delivered with a 100 breast split that was the fastest ever by an American.

Notably, the American team was 1.8 seconds faster than the performance in last year’s Olympic final. This U.S. group was 1.2 seconds off the world record set by an Adam Peaty-led British squad at the Tokyo Games but faster than any other country’s squad from the Olympics.

Australia’s team of Kaylee McKeownZac Stubblety-CookMatt Temple and Jack ended up with a silver medal in 3:41.34, and the Netherlands’ Kira ToussaintArno KammingaNyls Korstanje and Marrit Steenbergen claimed bronze in 3:41.54. McKeown led off for Australia in 58.66, more than a second slower than her 100 back world record of 57.45, and that essentially doomed Australia’s chances of taking gold.

“I am really happy after the relay,” Jack said. ” I tried not not compare myself against anyone as it is possible to race against a male swimmer. We’ve tried to concentrate just on our own race, and in the end, we’ve brought a silver home!”

Kamminga had already captured the silver medalist in the 100 breast this week, and he said of his team’s bronze medal, “This was so much fun. We knew ahead of the final that we had a slight chance for the medals, but the other teams changed some members while we didn‘t change anyone. Everyone did better than in the morning, and I have to say, it was great to be a part of this.”

Great Britain ended up fourth in 3:41.65, missing the podium by just 0.11 as only butterflyer James Guy returned from the gold-medal winning group last year, and Italy ended up fifth (3:41.67). China won Olympic silver in this event last year and returned three of the four swimmers from that squad, but they were unable to jump into the mix here, particularly with butterfly swimmer Zhang Yufei fatigued after just finishing the 200 fly semifinals.

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Dawn
8 days ago

I’d like to set the record straight (I’m a bit of a numbers nerd). In the 3rd Paragraph the following needs correction: “before Curzan anchored in 52.62, the second-fastest women’s freestyle split behind Australia’s Shayna Jack (52.55).” This should read: “before Curzan anchored in 52.62, the second-fastest women’s freestyle split behind Netherlands’ Marrit Steenbergen (52.55).”

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