By Rod Gilmour
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Katinka Hosszu, roared on by her home crowd, held on to secure Hungary’s first gold medal at the 2017 world swimming championships after a thrilling women’s 200 meters individual medley final on Monday.
Starting from lane four, where the 28-year-old self-titled ‘Iron Lady’ has been training in the build-up to the championships, Hosszu clocked two minutes 07.00 seconds amid deafening noise at a packed Duna Arena.
The Olympic champion’s biggest threat after two easy qualification races came from lane one where Japan’s Yui Ohashi took a well-earned silver.
Ohashi was second throughout and looked to reel in the local favorite on the final freestyle leg. The Japanese finished 0.91 seconds behind Hosszu, with Madisyn Cox of the United States taking bronze.
“This pretty much feels like the very first time I won,” a relieved Hosszu told reporters.
“I’ve been training in this pool since it opened and trying to imagine the crowd. I wasn’t really ready. I don’t think you can ever be ready for this kind of atmosphere. It gives an extra energy and motivation.
“It was just crazy.”
Hosszu, who could win five individual titles this week, said racing in front of a sellout home crowd added a lot of pressure.
“Now that I have the first gold it might be more simple, I can enjoy it and maybe I can get a medal or two more,” she added.
Britain’s Adam Peaty and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden narrowly missed out on world record times as the pair defended their respective titles.
Peaty powered his way to the turn in the men’s 100m breaststroke under the pace he set at last summer’s Rio Olympics.
His would-be challengers were then left trailing in his wake as the 22-year-old clocked a championship record time of 57.47 seconds, 0.34 seconds outside of his personal best.
“I said to myself ‘come on, let’s do it for family’. I like to make my family proud, make my country proud. We’ll see whether I can build on that this week,” said Peaty, who was cheered on by his mother and grandmother from the stands.
Sjostrom went even closer just minutes later in the women’s 100m butterfly final as she overtook Therese Alshammar as Sweden’s most decorated swimmer at a world championships.
The 23-year-old, nicknamed ‘Madame Butterfly’, touched just 0.05 seconds shy of her own world record time of 55.48 seconds.
“With these times in the first 50m I feel very excited for the 50m freestyle later this week,” said Sjostrom.
In the men’s 50m butterfly final, Nicholas Santos of Brazil was denied a fairytale gold at the age of 37 by the tenacious 22-year-old Ben Proud of Britain.
In a race missing Frenchman Florent Manaudou, who has taken a break from swimming to try out handball, the Brazilian was a leading candidate to land a first global long course title.
However, he was edged out by 0.04 seconds as Proud won in 22.75 seconds.
In the heats, Yuliya Efimova of Russia produced a blistering pace to set up a middle lane showdown alongside American rival Lilly King for Tuesday’s women’s 100m breaststroke final.
The Russian, who has been banned in the past for doping offences, clocked 1:04.36 in the semi-finals. She put her hand to her mouth on realizing she was only 0.01 second outside of Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte’s world record set four years ago.
King qualified in second, while Meilutyte will ensure an eagerly-anticipated final after posting the third best time.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)