Silver lining for Australia at world titles
AUSTRALIA'S most-decorated Rio Olympian Emma McKeon is back in the zone at the world championships in Budapest.
McKeon, 23, anchored the Australian women's 4x100m freestyle relay to a silver medal on the opening night and returned on Monday to win one of her own in the 100m butterfly.
After winning four Olympic medals on debut last year, McKeon is now the fastest 100m butterfly swimmer in Australian history, which is no mean feat considering Australia won Olympic gold medals in this event in 2004 (Petria Thomas) and 2008 (Libby Trickett).
The super-Swede Sarah Sjostrom retained her world title in a near-world record of 55.53 seconds, 24 hours after smashing the 100m freestyle world record in the relay.
But McKeon also rose to the occasion, coming home hard to overtake the US champion Kelsi Worrell and clinch her first global medal in this event.
She stopped the clock in 56.18sec to claim the national record from Jessicah Schipper (56.23sec), whose time she had equalled in the semi-final.
"That was so good, I'm so happy I was able to get faster from heat to semi-final and do another PB and I nearly dipped under that 56," she said.
McKeon, who hails from Wollongong but trains in Brisbane, credited a more relaxed attitude to international competition and the inclusion of more 200m butterfly work in her training for her improvement this year.
"I think doing those 200 flys has definitely helped my back end because last night I was half a second quicker on the back end than I had ever done before so it's definitely helped me," she said.
"This is the least nervous I've ever been and it mostly comes down to I'm happy. I'm enjoying what I'm doing and I've loved being over in Europe for the last two months and I think that's helped me keep my nerves down.
"This is how I want to approach my races now. I might come over next year and do some more of this kind of racing because it's definitely helped me this year."
Emily Seebohm will have the opportunity to retain her world title in the 100m backstroke on Tuesday night after winning her semi-final in 58.85sec.
But she faces a stiff task to vanquish the in-form Canadian Kylie Masse, who only just missed the world record (58.12sec), clocking 58.18sec to win the second semi-final.
They were the only two swimmers who breached 59 seconds on Monday night.
Seebohm, from Brisbane, has been competing with a respiratory infection this week but has not let it interfere with her performance.
"I don't know what I can do tomorrow night, all I can do is rest up and prepare and give it my best shot," Seebohm said.
"I've come into this and don't really know where I'm sitting at the moment and it's been hard getting sick because I know I've had a really good prep but it is what it is.
"There's nothing I can change about what she's doing, it's all about what I can do better and I know I can go that 58.2 and I'd love to go a PB and it will be a really exciting race tomorrow."
Seebohm is competing at her sixth world championships and has never finished out of the top four in this event and she believes that experience is one of the weapons can use in the final
"It's something that I've done 100 times before and nothing really phases me," she said.
Her fellow world champion and boyfriend Mitch Larkin also put himself in the medal hunt on Monday night, qualifying sixth fastest for Tuesday night's men's 100m backstroke final in his fastest time of the year, 53.19sec.
China's Xu Jiayu will take some beating after qualifying fastest in 52.44sec, half a second in front of Olympic champion Ryan Murphy (52.95sec).
"I would have liked to sneak under 53 but I was much better tonight, much sharper and I think with another 24 hours rest, fingers crossed, sharper again," Larkin said.
"Xu is a very skilful man and he's in good shape for a good swim tomorrow night but in this field you've got (former Olympic champion) Matt Grevers, you've got Murphy, there's plenty of people in there who are good enough to win it."
Larkin has lowered his expectations for this meet after taking a long post-Olympic break, then switching coaches.
Olympic 400m freestyle champion Mack Horton set a personal best time but fell short of qualifying for the 200m freestyle final, with the 11th fastest time in the semi-finals (1:46.81).
British pair Duncan Scott (1:45.16) and defending champion James Guy (1:45.18) set the pace ahead of Olympic champion Sun Yang (1:45.24).
Horton was keen to see what he could do in his first international 200m race but the 21-year-old Victorian said his inexperience with the event cost him in the semi-finals.
"I got caught up in a bit of wash and I've never dealt with wash in my life before so I was like 'what is this?', so it was just a bit of a battle getting through that," he said.
"I've never raced a 200 internationally at this sort of level so there's a lot I can learn from this."
Earlier, in the 100m breaststroke, Olympic champion Adam Peaty won his fourth global title in three years, in what could be the most dominant performance of the championships.
He was more than a second clear of the field when he stopped the clock in 57.47sec, just 0.34 sec outside of the world record he set in Rio.
The 22-year-old Englishman is shaping as one of the stars of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games next April.
It was an outstanding night for the British team as Ben Proud claimed its second gold medal in an upset in the 50m butterfly.