China’s Pan backs up world record in relays by winning 100 free at world championships

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DOHA, Qatar — China’s Pan Zhanle backed up his world record in the swimming relays by winning the men’s 100-meter freestyle at the World Aquatics Championships on Thursday.

The 19-year-old Pan swam the fastest 100 in history with a time of 46.80 seconds in the lead-off leg of China’s gold medal-winning 4×100 relay team.

Four days later, he didn’t go quite as fast. It was fast enough for gold, however, as Pan touched in 47.53 to stamp himself as one of the top contenders heading to the Paris Olympics.

“This was very hard,” Pan said. “This is my first (individual) world championship title. I know it’s only the beginning. I will keep moving forward and let’s meet in Paris.”

The reigning Olympic champion, American Caeleb Dressel, and 2023 world champion Kyle Chalmers of Australia were among many big names who skipped the Doha championships to focus on the Olympics.

The silver went to Alessandro Miressi of Italy (47.72) and Hungary’s Nandor Nemeth (47.78) claimed the bronze.

In the first final of the night, Britain’s Laura Stephens won the women’s 200 butterfly, going out strong and gutting it out at the end to touch in 2 minutes, 7.35 seconds.

Helena Rosendahl Bach of Denmark settled for silver in 2:07.44 and 18-year-old Lana Pudar of Bosnia and Herzegovina grabbed the bronze from lane eight in 2:07.92 — the first world medal ever for Bosnia and Herzegovina. She edged American Rachel Klinker for the last spot on the podium by 0.27.

“All I was thinking about the last 50 was just holding on to technique,” Stephens said. “I guess it worked.”

In the morning preliminaries, world-record holder Sarah Sjöström withdrew from the 100 free, a decision that was not surprising since the 30-year-old Swede has said she doesn’t plan to compete in the event at the Paris Olympics.

HIGH DIVING

With a huge final dive, Britain’s Aidan Heslop claimed the men’s title off the 27-meter tower at Doha Old Port.

He finished with 422.95 points in the non-Olympic sport, beating France’s Gary Hunt (413.25) as Romania’s Catalin-Petru Preda claimed the bronze (410.20). James Lichtenstein of the United States was fourth.

Heslop sealed the victory with a forward four somersaults with 3 1/2 twists in the pike position, a dive that has the highest degree of difficulty (6.2) ever completed at worlds. He received 8.0s and 8.5s from the judges.

“When you’ve got the big dives, that’s all you need to be on the top of the podium,” Heslop said. ”Being at the forefront of some of the biggest dives that people are doing nowadays is fun. It’s risky, but it’s fun.”

WATER POLO

Croatia advanced to the Saturday championship in men’s water polo with a 17-16 semifinal victory over France on penalties.

The French rallied from three goals down in the final quarter to tie the score at 11, but Croatia made all six of its penalties to survive.

Italy claimed the other spot in the final with an 8-6 victory over Spain.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

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