Aussie upstages Sun Yang, joins Thorpe
Aussie swimming star Clyde Lewis set a blistering personal best time to finish fastest in his 200m semi-final at the World Championships in Gwangju.
The 21-year-old, who only snuck into the semis after a sluggish 1:46.93 in his heats on Monday morning, led from start to finish as he touched the wall ahead of controversial Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, who will push for his second gold medal of the meet in Tuesday's final.
Yang has been tainted by doping allegations and was dragged into more controversy after becoming the new 400m freestyle world champion in South Korea.
His effort relegated Australian Mack Horton to the silver-medal position, and Horton caused a storm by refusing to stand on the podium with Yang in protest over what he believes is the injustice of China's main man being allowed to compete.
Horton will no doubt be even more filthy if Yang charges to gold in the 200m but his countryman Lewis will be doing his best to prevent that.
The youngster recorded the best performance of his career in Monday night's semi-final, finishing in 1:44.90 - nearly a second faster than his previous PB of 1:45.88 set in April this year, and more than two seconds faster than his 200m heat swim earlier in the day.
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Lewis's astonishing swim makes him the first man to go sub-1:45 since Yang recorded a 1:44.39 at the 2017 World Championships, and puts him in rare company.
Lewis is now just the second ever Australian to go faster than 1:45 in the 200m freestyle, joining swimming royalty Ian Thorpe, who is the only man from Down Under to go quicker (1:44.06).
Lewis has also moved into the top-10 of fastest ever 200m times.
"That was sick," Lewis said after the semi-final. "I was out there in lane one by myself, I knew I was out fast at the 150m, I just knew I had to bring it home, I did everything I could, that's a sick result.
"It's big for me, but I have learned to compose myself over the last three years, so I will let the emotions die down because I have a job to do tomorrow night, that's when it really counts.
"I have an open mind, I like to have fun out there, that's the key for me."
While Lewis knows the swim will mean nothing if he can't back it up in Tuesday night's final and pip Yang for gold, it certainly justifies his move to drop the 400m individual medley from his program to concentrate purely on freestyle.
Lewis won gold in the 400m IM at the 2018 Commonwealth Games but ditched the event and he will look like a genius if he's standing on the top step of the podium after the 200m final.
Trying to not get too excited before Men’s 200 FR final tomorrow night but even now, as the fastest qualifier, Clyde Lewis must be thinking he made the right decision to drop the 400IM from his program (Comm Games champ) to focus on 100/200 FR! #Gwangju19 #WorldChamps— Giaan Rooney (@GiaanRooney) July 22, 2019
Yang qualified second-fastest for the final, finishing in 1:45.31, while Aussie star and reigning 100m Olympic gold medallist Kyle Chalmers bombed out and won't be in contention for a medal.
Also on Monday, Australian Emma McKeon claimed bronze in the 100m butterfly, coming third behind Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom (silver) and 19-year-old Canadian Margaret MacNeil (gold). McKeon's medal keeps her on track to enter the record books at the world titles.
While MacNeil knocked over one of swimming's biggest names, McKeon is in sight of eclipsing the greatest of all - Michael Phelps.
In a glittering career, record 23-time Olympic champion Phelps' biggest haul at a single world titles was seven medals - a feat he achieved twice. However if all goes to plan, McKeon can earn a record eight medals at Gwangju. The 25-year-old is on track after adding 100m fly bronze to the 4x100m freestyle relay gold she collected on the opening night.
She still has to contest the 100m and 200m freestyle plus another four relays. For now, McKeon - a six-year national team veteran - was just happy to see another swimmer challenge Olympic champion Sjostrom.
The Swede led early at world record pace on the first lap with MacNeil a distant fifth. The Canadian put on the afterburners though to claim a surprise gold in 55.83 seconds - 0.39 ahead of the world record holder.
"I guess we haven't really had someone to obviously beat Sarah in a long time, just let alone get that close," said McKeon, who was third in 56.61. "It definitely makes me excited to get back into training and keep pushing for next year."
With Laine Clark, AAP