Local star Milak shines but Dressel withdraws from two swimming finals

·3-min read

A capacity crowd at the World Swimming Championships was deprived of one star on Tuesday night as Caeleb Dressel scratched but saw the one they wanted, roaring local hero Kristof Milak to a world record.

Dressel, the defending champion, pulled out of the 100m freestyle semi-finals and mixed medley relay just before the session.

Dressel had swum the morning heats in the 100 finishing second fastest to Romanian teenage sensation David Popovici. Dressel won the event at the last two world championships and at last year's Olympics.

"A decision has been made by Team USA in consultation with Caeleb, his coach and the team's medical staff for him to withdraw from the 100-meter freestyle event on medical grounds. The team will determine his participation in the events later in the week," said a US team statement.

Popovici, a 17-year-old who had become the first Romanian man to win a world title the night before, cruised to the fastest time in the semis.

For the first time this week a packed house in the Budapest pool screamed and clapped as Milak, the reigning Olympic champion, racing in lane 4 which goes to the fastest qualifier, responded with 1min 50.34sec to shave 0.39sec off the world record he set winning the last world title in 2019.

It was Hungary's first gold of the competition.

"It's a completely different experience to go out there to the pool in front of so many people who are rooting for you and who you are swimming for, it's a mutual thing," Milak told Hungarian television.

"When I came in I felt this huge expectation, I got the huge ovation which was so good to feel," he said.

"When I stepped on the blocks and got ready I felt as if I was in a dream, a feeling of being so in the flow.

"This is my home, my pool. I train here, I race four, lane four belongs to me. I really wanted to show something big for these fantastic people."

Milak beat France's Leon Marchand by a huge 3.03sec.

"Now it hurts a lot. I can't feel my legs," Milak said.

- Ukraine bronze -

Olympic champion Bobby Finke made another late surge to grab gold in the men's 800m freestyle.

Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk led for half the race and went into the final turn first with Finke back in fourth.

But, as he did in Tokyo, the American's last lap sprint carried him to victory. His time of 7min 39.36sec was an American record.

"I was really nervous going into that race, it was incredibly stressful, especially the last year after Tokyo my expectations immediately rose a lot, so I am just happy to get that out of the way," said Finke.

German Olympic open-water champion Florian Wellbrock also slipped past his training partner Romanchuk at the end to grab silver.

The Ukrainian repeated his Olympic bronze.

"I'm really happy as this time is really good for me," he said. "Enough for just a bronze but it shows how close these guys are. I am very happy to be part of an amazing battle."

Wellbrock invited Romanchuk to join him in Magdeburg following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

Another American, Nic Fink, won the men's breaststroke 50m sprint.

He edged 100m gold medallist Nicolo  Martinenghi  by a microscopic 0.03sec with  another American Michael Andrew third.

"I didn't see anything in the final five metres, I was kind of a blackout," Fink said.

Yang Junxuan won the women's 200m freestyle to take China's first gold of the week.

The United States ended the evening by taking gold in the 100m mixed medley relay ahead of Australia and the Netherlands.


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