Speed ace McEvoy toppled as Dolphins grab three silvers

Ian Chadband |

Aussie Cameron McEvoy congratulates Ukraine’s Vladyslav Bukhov after the super-close 50m free final.
Aussie Cameron McEvoy congratulates Ukraine’s Vladyslav Bukhov after the super-close 50m free final.

Cameron McEvoy has been beaten in the most agonising of near-misses in his 50m freestyle world title defence, edged for gold by just one-hundredth of a second in one of the shocks of the championships in Doha.

But while the veteran speedster was putting on a brave face after his sensational loss to Ukraine’s Vladyslav Bukhov on Saturday (Sunday AEDT), an Australian star of the future Jaclyn Barclay was left savouring her own breakthrough silver in the 200m backstroke.

And to end the penultimate day’s action, workaholics Shayna Jack and Brianna Throssell landed their fifth medals of the week as they teamed up with Kai Taylor and Jack Cartwright to win silver in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay behind the victorious Chinese.

It left the Dolphins going into the final day contemplating a series of near-misses, with nine silvers and four bronze now accompanying Sam Williamson’s lone gold in the 50m breaststroke.

In the eagerly awaited splash-and-dash final with Socceroos legend Tim Cahill among the fans cheering him on in the Aspire Dome, the rejuvenated veteran McEvoy, star of this weakened Dolphins team, had been odds-on to successfully defend the title he annexed in Fukuoka last year.

But after powering off quickest, the 29-year-old was chased down by 21-year-old Bukhov, who’d been last early on before roaring through to touch in 21.44sec, fractionally ahead of the Australian (21.45) and Britain’s Ben Proud (21.53).

McEvoy had been hoping to enhance his own record as Australia’s oldest ever world swimming champion and had swum much faster in both his heat (21.13) and semi-final (21.23) on Friday.

Barclay and Curzan
Australian Jaclyn Barclay (L) with her 200m backstroke conqueror, American Claire Curzan. (EPA PHOTO)

But McEvoy, who’d earlier in the week won a shock bronze himself in the 50m butterfly, hid any frustration well.

“Of course I wanted the gold medal, and you always want to post good times so in that respect I am a little disappointed,” he conceded. 

“But my main goal for this meet was to come here and see how fast I can go. 

“This is all part of the process and to accumulate data ahead of Paris … but if I was to tell my 2016 to 2022 year-old self that I would be standing here right now, just 0.01 off a second world title, I’d be super proud.

“The final was quicker than Fukuoka … so as an experience, this has been vital for my Paris preparation.”

There was nothing but delight for 17-year-old Barclay, another gem straight off the Aussie backstroke production line who won her first senior individual global medal.

Slashing nearly two seconds off her best, Queensland’s world junior 100m back champ clocked 2min 07.03sec to take the silver comfortably.

But up ahead, 19-year-old American Claire Curzan was in a league of her own, clocking 2:05.77 to complete the same rare treble that Aussie Kaylee McKeown annexed in Fukuoka.

The mixed freestyle foursome were boosted by an electric third leg from Jack, who moved them from the bronze into the silver position, clocking 3:21.78 to China’s 3:21.18. 

It was Jack’s 16th world championship medal in total – one fewer than Throssell, who’s moved to 17 – but she can equal her teammate by making the podium in the 50m freestyle after qualifying fourth fastest for the final.

Gold in that splash-and-dash should go to Sarah Sjostrom, the great 30-year-old Swede who earlier became the second swimmer after Katie Ledecky in the 800 free to win six consecutive world titles at the same event, as she annexed the 50m butterfly crown in 24.63sec.

But there’s hope for a golden Australian final-day flourish with Isaac Cooper, who’d earlier come fifth in the 50m free final, qualifying fastest for the 50m backstroke showdown with an Oceanian record of 24.12sec – 0.31sec quicker than the next-best qualifier and the seventh fastest time in history.

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AAP