South African Matthew Sates’ dream journey continued in Budapest when he bagged two golds on the opening day of the World Cup at the Duna Arena. He brought down one more junior World Record, this time in the 400m free.
Maria Ugolkova of Switzerland also enjoyed a fine evening by claiming two titles. Many from the bests in Berlin last week, were also winner in Budapest, including Aussie rockets Kylie Chalmers and Emma McKeon and the Netherlands’ World Cup specalists Arno Kamminga and Kira Toussaint.
Matt Sates amazed many last weekend as he completed the Individual Medley treble, earned four golds and a silver while beating two junior WRs. Now the 18 year-old is set for more. Hehad opened his quest in Berlin with a silver in the 400m free – but in Budapest he touched in first and smashed the junior WR (3:37.92).
It was a brilliant performance from the youngster as he managed to outpace Danas Rapsys who had been first in Berlin and ruled this event in the previous season. The Lithuanian was as fast as he was last Friday – but Sates geared up and shaved 2.3sec off from his time.
And the South African was back for more: in the session-closing final he retained his 100m IM title, clocking almost identical time as in Berlin. He clocked 57.77 to improve on the 57.78 a week ago).
“I mean, this a dream journey for me” Sates said after his second win. “I did not expect that. Not the records. Perhaps my coach did but he never told me. This FINA World Cup is fantastic, I’m enjoying it so much. There are no big goals set, I just wish to go on and enjoy it. And many thanks for all the attention I receive, it’s an honour to be here and be interviewed,” said Sates.
It’s yet to be seen how high Sates will get in the world of swimming – but one would barely find any humbler competitor than this kid from South Africa.
Switzerland’s Ugolkova was also all smiles as she delivered a great double too, won the 200m butterfly first, then added the 100m Individual Medley.
“It’s an amazing feeling” she said. “I swam personal bests, two new Swiss records – it’s fantastic. It’s also great to swim in front of spectators at last, especially here, as the Hungarians can create a great atmosphere,” said Ugolkova .
Though the roars were not as overwhelming as it had been at the 2017 FINA World Championships, but the Duna Arena became a noisy place when young Hubert Kos stunned the field of the 200m back and won the race on lane 1. The 18 year-old Hungarian admitted that he had some special preparations before the series.
“Was a bit bored of swimming when I returned from the Olympics but I did not want to stop completely and spend too much time out of the pool” Kos said. “So we decided to play water polo on a daily basis in the warm-up pool, with the team-mates. Well, that’s a tough sport, I should tell you – and keep you in shape for sure. But I never expected this gold, I thought I may catch a medal but my coach prepared me for this race perfectly,” said Kos.
There was one more surprise winner from Lane 1: Viktoria Gunes in the women’s 200m breast. Gunes had clocked a faster time at the 2015 FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Singapore than the winning effort at the World Champs in Kazan some weeks earlier. The Turkish swimmer was considered one of the greatest prospects but ever since that astounding performance in 2015, she had been fading a bit.
“I had some tough years as the transition from junior to senior level is extremely challenging” Gunes said. “I had ups and downs, I wanted things too badly and had to learn some lesson. I got a big help from a Hungarian coach Arpad Petrov, his support was invaluable to be able to find the right perspective. Now I’m swimming for the joy and stopped putting pressure on myself. I’m happy where I am now, and I try to go step by step but without any huge expectations,” said Gunes.
The outcome of these two finals were rare exceptions as in the majority of the races the Berlin winners repeated their respective triumphs and mostly the same duels were re-staged from a week ago. Germany’s Isabelle Gose opened the session by winning the women’s 400m free ahead of USA’s Cavan Gormsen. It was tighter this time, the gap had been 1.44 in Berlin, but in Budapest only 0.89 separated Gose ahead.
Netherlands’ Arno Kamminga bested Germany’s Fabian Schwingelschogl in the men’s 100m breast with a bigger margin. Kamminga posted the best effort of the day in 56.08 to win with ease.
The women’s dash saw the same affair, Aussie sprinting queen Emma McKeon speeded up once more, this time her victory was even more convincing ahead of compatriot Madison Wilson (by 0.46sec) and Sweden’s Michelle Coleman (the latter one also landed a silver in the 100m IM).
The men’s final produced another showdown between Aussie Olympic champion Kylie Chalmers and former World Cup overall winner Vlad Morozov of Russia. Both came faster here, than last week, Chalmers managed to go under 21sec (20.97) and beat Morozov by a fingernail (0.07sec).
The Russian, who ruled the sprinting events in the previous years in the World Cup, offered some insights on his current status.
“When the pandemic hit in, I decided to have a long break. I took six months off and it was great. You know, for years, I travelled around the world, was part of each event, participated in each World Cup leg… If I hadn’t done that, I think I might not be here. I needed that break in order not to be burnt out completely.
“I’ve restarted trainings and let’s say I’m in the middle of the process. I’ll see how far I can get at this year’s short-course Europeans and Worlds and then I’ll decide how I’ll go on.”
Dutchwoman Kira Toussaint also retained her 50m back title from last week and USA’s Tom Shields did the same in the 100m fly.
While South African Chad le Clos had to sit out with a shoulder injury, the hosts’ Olympic hero Kristof Milak made his first appearance after the Tokyo Olympics where had snatched gold in the 200m fly and a silver in the 100m. Enjoying a longer break and returning the pool only three weeks ago, under a new coach, Milak was no match for Shields this time, Shields’ underwater work was visibly much more effective, a big asset in short-course and won with ease again.