Dubai, World s/c Championships, day 4 finals:
Women's 200m medley
Mireia Belmonte (ESP) had long been in the frame but in Dubai she is a swimmer transformed: her third gold of the meet felled world, European and Asian champions and took her closer confirmation as the queen of the desert championship.
The world record from 2009 survived to Julia Smith (USA) on 2:04.60 but the championship mark of 2:06.13, set by Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) in a LZR Racer in 2008 took a hit from the Spanish sniper out on the wing and now the fastest ever in a textile suit.
Belmonte, out in lane 8, clocked 2:05.73 to deny Asian champ Ye Shiwen (CHN), 14, on 2:05.94, world l/c champ Ariana Kukors (USA), on 2:06.09 for bronze, and the two Hungarians who took gold and silver 0.01sec away from each other in the same order at the helm of the European long-course title race back in Budapest in August, Katinka Hosszu, world 400m medley champion last year, and Evelyn Verraszto, European s/c champion last month.
This was company that Belmonte was not used to beating. Now coached by Fred Vergnoux at Sabadell in Barcelona, the 20-year-old made up for backstroke losses on breaststroke just as she had on her way to 400m victory on day 1 and after turning in a line with Kukors, in 4, and Hosszu, in 2, Ye close in 3, crushed the American and the Hungarian on freestyle, the Chinese teenager the only one in the race faster on free (28.66!). Neither Belmonte nor Ye seemed overly tired at the end, defeat more painful than victory, perhaps.
The result and splits:
The champion said: "I feel very happy. This is amazing. This morning I was feeling very tired and nervous but as the afternoon wore on I became more relaxed. I can't quite believe I'm going home with four medals, three of them gold [gold in the 200m butterfly and 400m medley on day 1, silver in the 800m freestyle on day 2]. I'm sure it will sink in when I get home."
History in the making:
World s/c Podiums
Most world titles in this event: 2
Records (TB = best ever in a textile suit)
Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 2
All-time textile rankings top 5:
From the archive:
On May 1, 1957, FINA set a standard time of 2:28.0 as the mark past which any had to get to claim world-record status only granted after that date to times set in a 50m pool. It was not until August 21, 1966 that Claudia Kolb set the first of her five world marks over 200m (she also set four in the 400m) in 2:27.8. Claudia Kolb’s victories over 200 and 400m medley at altitude in Mexico in 1968, remain two of the most decisive Olympic triumphs in swimming history. She clocked 2:24.7 over 200m to win by 4.1sec in Mexico. Over 400m, the gap from Kolb to teammate Lynn Vidali, silver medal winner, was 13.7sec: where Kolb clocked 5:08.5, half the final could not manage to break 5:30. If Kolb swam all four strokes collectively faster than the world, she was also a world-class act on breaststroke: her Olympic debut as a freckle-faced 14-year-old in Tokyo, 1964, resulted a surprise silver medal in a 200m final she had qualified for as fifth fastest. Fourth with 25m to go, Kolb changed gear for 10 metres, found herself in medal contention and in 2:47.6, split the Russian favourites Galina Prozumenschikova (2:46.4) and Svetlana Babanina (2:48.6). Born in Haywood, California, Kolb was coached by George Haines at Santa Clara.