World titles wrap: McKeon swims into the record books
NO Australian woman has won more medals at one world swimming championships than Emma McKeon has after five days in Budapest.
McKeon collected her fifth medal, a bronze as part of the women's 4x200m freestyle relay team, equalling the record tallies of Libby Trickett and Alicia Coutts.
Trickett won five gold medals in Melbourne in 2007, while Coutts won five silver medals in Barcelona in 2013.
McKeon now has four silvers and a bronze but said she was feeling the strain of her workload after five days.
"It was pretty tough (to back up for the relay after the 100m freestyle semi-finals)," she said.
"That's 11 races for me now and it's catching up with me but tomorrow I have the morning completely off and I think that will really help me recover and I'll be a lot fresher for tomorrow night."
Earlier McKeon qualified for her sixth final, in the 100m freestyle.
"It's my first time doing the 100m free internationally so to make the final is better than I expected," she said.
"I didn't think 53.20 seconds would make it, but I'm glad it just snuck in."
It was apparent that McKeon was running close to empty by the relay but she still set the fastest split of the Australian team (1:56.26) and her young teammates did the rest.
Backstroker-turned-freestyler Madison Wilson opened with a personal best of 1:57.33, while relay debutant Kotuku Ngawati kept Australia in the medal hunt (1:58.31), before handing off to 16-year-old anchor Ariarne Titmus in fourth place, behind the USA, China and Russia.
Titmus (1:56.00) showed maturity beyond her years to mow down her Russian rival and secure the bronze medal in 7:48.51.
American superstar Katie Ledecky also collected her fifth medal this week with the winning US team (7:43.39).
In the semi-finals, reigning world champion Mitch Larkin was a shock elimination from the 200m backstroke.
Larkin arrived in Budapest knowing he was not in the form he showed two years, after an extended post-Olympic break and a switch of coaches, but he was clearly upset to miss the final in his pet event.
He finished last in his semi-final in 1:59.10, more than a second slower than his heat swim, and had no immediate explanation of what went wrong.
His partner and fellow world backstroke champion Emily Seebohm was all smiles earlier after she set a national record of 27.37sec to finish fourth in the 50m backstroke final, an event she does just for fun.
"I can't remember the last time I did a PB," a delighted Seebohm said as she prepared to defend her 200m title over the next two days.
There was good news for Australia's 200m breaststroke specialists as Taylor McKeown and Matt Wilson qualified for their respective finals.
Commonwealth champion McKeown was third fastest in the women's heats, clocking her fastest time of the year, 2:22.10.
Controversial Russian Yulia Efimova was the fastest qualifier (2:21.49), ahead of American Bethany Galat, while 100m champion Lilly King just scraped through in eighth place (2:23.81).
Teenager Wilson will be the youngest competitor in the men's final after setting a personal best time of 2:08.64, the fastest time by an Australian in a textile suit.
Russia's Anton Chupkov, who beat Wilson to the world junior title in 2015, was the fastest qualifier (2:07.14), from world record-holder Ippei Watanabe of Japan (2:07.44).
"I didn't really see that coming," Wilson said.
"I was a lot more relaxed than I thought I would be and I felt like I handled it quite well."
The 18-year-old Sydney student came into the world titles ranked 17th, but will leave in the top eight, breaking a long drought for the Australian team in this event.
Australia's prized 100m freestyle sprinters no longer hold the international ascendancy after 21-year-old American Caeleb Dressel dominated the event's final.
Australian contender Cameron McEvoy missed the medals by 0.03sec, finishing fourth, as Dressel (47.17sec) swam the fastest time to win a major championship since the supersuit era finished in 2009.
It was more than half a second faster than Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers' winning time in Rio last year (47.58sec) and he won by a huge margin in sprinting terms.
Dressel came into the event as the favourite after lighting up the pool on the opening night with a relay lead-off of 47.26sec, the third fastest textile time in history.
His fellow American Nathan Adrian, the 2012 Olympic champion, took the silver medal (47.87sec), a fraction of a second ahead of third-placed Frenchman Meydy Metella (47.89sec).
McEvoy, 23, clocked 47.92sec, his third sub-48 second swim in two days, and said his fitness was not quite back to the level required after his post-Olympic break.
However he was satisfied that he had put together the best race he could in the circumstances and that it was a much better effort than in the Olympic final last year, where he went in as the favourite and finished seventh.
"I definitely think that was a better swim and that's a big positive," he said.
"I'm not as fit as last year but mentally I'm a lot better. I feel like it's a huge shift.
"I think as a whole, looking back at the season, I'm pretty proud of the way I've bounced back from that and being able to get up and do what I did then.
"That swim alone probably wasn't the outcome I was looking for in terms of ranking and time but I think I can look at the whole process of the last year and be proud that I could come out of that and still be one of the best in the world.
"It makes me pretty motivated to get back in the water after this meet and train my arse off again and get up to that No. 1 spot.
"It's not going to make me afraid to come back next time on the world stage and challenge for that world 100m freestyle title."
Teenage Australian Jack Cartwright finished seventh in his first world championship final, clocking 48.24 sec, just a touch slower than his semi-final time of 47.97 sec.
A country boy from Biloela in Queensland, Cartwright handled his first major championship final with impressive composure.
"To be in my first world championships final and do my second fastest time, I'm stoked," he said.
In the women's 100m freestyle semi-finals, reigning world champion Bronte Campbell qualified strongly for the final, despite carrying a debilitating shoulder injury into the championships.
Campbell finished second in her semi-final in 53.04sec, behind the Danish Olympic 50m freestyle champion Pernille Blume (52.99sec).
In the other semi-final, new world record-holder Sarah Sjostrom set the fastest time of the day, 52.44sec, to lead the field into the final.
Olympic champion Simon Manuel (52.69sec) and fellow American Mallory Comerford (52.85sec) were the other swimmers to break 53 seconds.
McKeon, the winner of four silver medals already this week, made the most of her first chance to swim the blue ribband sprint at the global championship, taking the last spot in the final in 53.20sec.