With stars such as Nathan Adrian, Kathleen Baker and Ryan Murphy, much of what Cal swimmers have done at the championship has been a continuation of what Bears have been really good at for several years.
Adrian, one of the four people selected as Team USA’s captains, started the Bears’ medal-winning ways by anchoring the 400-meter freestyle relay. As he has done consistently since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Adrian took 47.25 seconds to earn Team USA’s first gold medal at a world championship in this event since 2009 and gained a redemption after embarrassingly missing the finals in this event two years ago. With the medal, Adrian becomes the fifth American male to reach 10 medals, joining elite company such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Aaron Peirsol and Matt Biondi.
Adrian, a member of the “old guard,” helped build the foundation of American sprint freestyle while two of the greatest swimmers in history, Phelps and Lochte, changed the face of the sport. As Adrian’s reward, he was able to partner with young college stars trying to solidify their international reputation such as Florida’s Caeleb Dressel, Texas’ Townley Haas and Indiana’s Blake Pieroni to earn another gold medal.
Baker, who has been consistently elite at the collegiate level over the last two years, is proving that she can have a similar worth to Team USA at international meets, so when Katinka Hosszú was scratched the finals earlier in the meet to focus on the 200-meter individual medley, Baker had her golden opportunity.
Her race seemed perfect. Baker had a quick and explosive start, which propelled her to a great breakout that carried through the first half of the race. Canada’s Kylie Masse, who finished tied for third behind Hosszú and Baker last summer, accelerated into the halfway mark and was able to surge pass Baker for a new world record, which relegated Baker to the silver medal.
Baker wasn’t the only Cal swimmer to find success in the backstroke events for Team USA. Although Murphy won the Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke last summer, he barely managed to get onto the podium by earning a bronze medal behind China’s Jiayu Xu and fellow Team USA member Matt Grevers.
Despite being the world record holder in the 100-meter backstroke, Murphy fell behind Xu from the start of the race, which is not a typical sight. Despite the deep field, Murphy managed to stay with the lead group and finished just .15 seconds behind Xu and .11 behind Grevers.
Egypt’s Farida Osman finished 17th in the 100-meter butterfly, missing the semi-finals by just .01 seconds. She’ll have three more individual races later in the meet.
While Osman has wrapped up her NCAA eligibility at Cal earlier this year, Netherland’s Robin Neumann will begin hers in the fall. She finished in 16th in the 200-meter freestyle but will have the opportunity to race in the 800-meter freestyle relay where she could face Denmark’s Anina Lund, who is starting her second year as a Bear in the fall. Singapore’s Zheng Wen Quah, another international swimmer that has seen limited Cal action, finished in 18th in the 200-meter butterfly.
Either way, Cal’s contingent at the World Championship have certainly set themselves up for more success.
Christopher Zheng covers women’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].