World Cup Athens, Day 1 Finals: Kaylee McKeown Goes Within 0.04 Of 50 Back World Record

Kaylee Mckeown of Australia competes in the 100m Backstroke Women Final during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 25th, 2023.
Kaylee McKeown: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

World Cup Athens, Day 1 Finals: Kaylee McKeown Goes Within 0.04 Of 50 Back World Record

Kaylee McKeown posted the second-fastest 50m backstroke in history as she went within 0.04 of the world record on the first night of finals at the Athens stop of the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup.

Only Liu Xhang and her world record of 26.98 from the 2018 Asian Games have eclipsed the Australian who sliced 0.06 from her previous best and Oceania record of 27.08 from the World Championships in Fukuoka.

It was the standout swim of the evening in the Greek capital where Pieter Coetze produced the second-swiftest 200m backstroke of his career in overhauling Thomas Ceccon on the final 50.

There were also wins for Qin Haiyang, Zhang Yufei and Sarah Sjostrom.

Here’s how day one finals unfolded:

Women’s 400m Freestyle

Erika Fairweather set a World Cup record of 4:01.09 in Berlin and was the fastest in prelims in Athens.

The New Zealander was in a duel with Lani Pallister from the word go with the pair trading the lead until Fairweather took over at 300m, holding a 0.04 lead.

She extended that to 0.29 at the final turn, coming away to stop the clock at 4:01.90 ahead of Pallister (4:02.47) as the duo replicated their one-two finish in Germany.

Claire Weinstein was third throughout and took bronze in 4:06.73.

2023-10-13 (11)

Men’s 400m Freestyle

Danys Rapsys led throughout as he followed up his Berlin win with victory in 3:48.64.

Brendon Smith was second until 250 when Kieran Smith and Henrik Christiansen overhauled him, the American taking silver in 3:49.46 to the Norwegian’s 3:49.70.

2023-10-13 (12)Women’s 50m Backstroke

Kaylee McKeown claimed a golden backstroke treble at the World Championships in Fukuoka in July.

The Australian then swept the back events in Berlin –  with World Cup marks in each – as well as taking the 200IM title.

Come the final in Athens and she rattled the WR, her 27.02 yet another meet mark.

There was clear water between her and Canadian pair Ingrid Wilm and Kylie Masse who were separated by 0.01 in 27.94 to 27.95.

All-Time Rankings

26.98: Liu Xiang, 2018 Asian Games

27.02: Kaylee McKeown, 2023 World Cup

27.06: Zhao Jing, 2009 World Championships

=27.10: Regan Smith, 2023 World Championships

=27.10: Kira Toussaint, 2021 Eindhoven Qualification Meet

2023-10-13 (13)

Men’s 200m Backstroke

Thomas Ceccon returned to the water a week after his victory in Berlin with the Italian leading Pieter Coetze by 0.40secs at the final turn.

However, a final 50 of 28.93 to the Italian’s 29.50 propelled the South African into the lead and he stopped the clock in 1:56.32.

It was the second-fastest 200 of his career, eclipsed only by his 1:56.05 from the 2022 World Junior Championships, and the fourth-swiftest all-time by a South African headed by George Du Rand‘s 1:55.75 natonal record from 2009.

Ceccon took silver in 1:56.49 with Roman Mityukov of Switzerland third home in 1:57.16.

2023-10-13 (15)

Women’s 200m Butterfly

Zhang Yufei‘s 2023 has been a glittering one: two golds among five medals at the Fukuoka worlds were followed by an eye-watering nine titles at the World University Games.

She then won six golds in as many races at the Asian Games before arriving on the World Cup tour in Berlin where she took the 200 fly on the opening day.

The Chinese swimmer repeated that feat in Athens, clocking a season’s best 2:06.73 to go within 0.40 of Cammile Adams‘ World Cup record that has stood since 2015.

Katie Grimes was second throughout and took second in 2:08.70 with Japan’s Ageha Tanigawa next home in 2:12.01.

2023-10-13 (14)

Men’s 100m Butterfly

Matt Sates made it two wins in as many races for the South African men when he came from fifth at halfway to touch first in 51.82 following a 27.43 second 50.

Michael Andrew was ahead at 50 in 23.68 but was caught by both Sates and Cody Simpson as he shared silver with the Australian in 51.92.

Ben Armbruster was fourth (51.99) with Chad le Clos – who’d claimed the final spot in morning prelims – fifth in 52.21.

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Women’s 200m Breaststroke

Tes Schouten followed up her Berlin victory with first in Athens.

The Netherlands swimmer led from the start to take the win in 2:23.23 ahead of Jenna Strauch (2:24.19) as the pair repeated last week’s placings.

Thea Blomsterberg of Denmark took third in 2:24.34.

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Men’s 100m Breaststroke

Qin has swept all before him this year across all three breaststroke events.

The Chinese swimmer claimed an historic clean sweep at the Fukuoka worlds – including a WR of 2:05.48 over 200m – before repeating that feat at the World University Games and Asian Games.

Last week in Berlin he set a World Cup record of 57.69 and although he didn’t produce that sort of time on Friday, his 58.44 was good enough for yet another gold.

Nic Fink came from fourth at the 50 to take second in 59.28 with double Olympic silver medallist Arno Kamminga following up second in Berlin with third in the Greek capital in 59.40.

Adam Peaty – making his way back in competitive waters – was second at halfway before finishing sixth in 59.98.

2023-10-13 (18)Women’s 50m Freestyle

Sarah Sjöström was named in the interim Sweden team for the 2024 World Championships in Doha earlier on Friday.

In Athens, the four-time Olympic medallist locked horns once more with Cate Campbell and again emerged victorious in 24.10.

Campbell was second in 24.54 with Torri Huske taking third in 24.62 as the trio replicated the Berlin result.

Bronte Campbell was fourth in 24.70.

2023-10-13 (19)

Men’s 50m Freestyle

Michael Andrew dusted himself down after the 100 fly and returned to win in 21.96, the only man inside 22.

Isaac Cooper – who squeaked into the final after a swimoff – took second in 22.07 ahead of Dylan Carter (22.16).

2023-10-13 (21)

Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay

The session ended with a medley relay featuring two teams – Australia and Greek club swimmers.

Led off by McKeown in 1:00.81, she handed over to Strauch (1:08.55) with Alexandria Perkins doing a fly leg of 57.69 as Cate Campbell‘s 53.62 anchoring the Australian quartet home in 4:00.67.

Ioanna Pazaiti led the Greeks out in 1:07.12 followed by Areti Zarmbouti (1:16.08) and Styliani Rota (1:05.14) with Lora Evgenia Ferra coming home in 58.98 as the quartet clocked 4:27.35.

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