Egypt’s Marwan El Kamash will rub shoulders with swimming royalty in the pool Monday as he contests the same heat as world and Olympic champion Sun Yang in the 200m freestyle at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
El Kamash, 21, was one of four Egyptians to impress in the pool on opening day yesterday and he’s looking to do better in the 200 free, an event in which he took bronze at the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Charlotte in March, when he beat the likes of Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.
“It will be a good one,” El Kamash told Sport360.
“The 200 freestyle is my strongest event after the 400. And I think I’m capable of making the semis tomorrow (Tuesday) insha’Allah. I just need to race my own race and not get distracted by other swimmers.”
On day one yesterday in Kazan, El Kamash and his University of South Carolina team-mate Ahmed Akram both clocked personal best times to finish inside the top 16 in an incredibly strong 400m freestyle field.
Akram, 19, smashed the Egyptian national record with a 3:48.07 swim while El Kamash was close behind with a 3:48.15 to place 15 and 16.
“The first race is always an ind-ication on how your swim meet is going to be like, so for me going more than two seconds faster than my personal best, I think is a great way to start,” said the Alexandria native.
“It was even more special to make top 16 with my team-mate on both the national and college teams.”
El Kamash’s brother, Youssef, also set a national record, clocking 1:02.01 in 100m breaststroke.
Their team-mate Farida Osman came agonisingly close to making the 100m butterfly semi-final. The former world junior champion had to contest a swim-off with Great Britain’s Rachael Kelly after the pair had both swum a matching 58.48 seconds in the morning preliminaries to share 16th place.
Osman was leading in the swim-off but was pegged back in the final metres to finish 0.05 seconds behind Kelly.
“I feel exhausted mentally and physically,” he said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, UAE veteran Mubarak Al Besher made a disappointing start to his campaign clocking a dismal 1:09.08 in the 100m breaststroke, a time that is over six seconds slower than his qualifying time for the meet.
His countryman Yaaqoub Al Saadi will feature in the 100m backstroke while Alia Al Shamsi and Nada Al Bedwawi will make history when they become the first female swimmers to represent the UAE at a World Championships, the fomer lining up for the 100m breaststroke, and the latter for the 100m back.
Dubai-based Velimir Stjepanovic will have to make a quick turnaround following a disappointing 400m freestyle yesterday as he lines up for an even tougher 200m race Monday.
The Serb, who is the reigning European champion in both freestyle distances, swam a 3:49.49 in the 400 free on Sunday which placed him 19th in the preliminaries, more than two seconds off the slowest swimmer to make the final.
“I am physically fine and the taper was good, just a bad swim overall on my part,” Stjepanovic told Sport360 .
"I have no other choice than to see what mistakes I made and move on" – Stjepanovic
“It was exactly the same time I did last year in Berlin (at the European Championships) in the morning, however it wasn’t swum in the way it needed to be swum. It’s unfortunate, however you have to look at what was good and bad about the race and move on, better here than next year (at the Olympics).”
Stjepanovic faces even stiffer competition in the 200m free where he will take on the likes of Sun Yang, Ryan Lochte, Paul Biedermann and Chad Le Clos, who will all be gunning for gold in the abs-ence of Yannick Agnel, the reigning Olympic champion in the event.
“I have no choice other than to see what mistakes I made and move on and channel the feelings I have to the 200 tomorrow,” said Stjepanovic. “The field is even stronger and deeper on the 200 so I’m going to have to forget about today and be ready tomorrow.”
World junior record holder Mack Horton cut a disappointed figure in the mixed zone as the 19-year-old also missed out on a place in the 400 free final after admitting he had misjudged his heat on his World Championships debut.
The Aussie teenager came into Kazan having swum the world’s fastest time this year, but admitted he was found wanting on the big stage as he finished 11th in the heats.
“It was my first international meet and I wasn’t really sure of the pace,” said Horton, who will also swim in the 800m and 1500 freestyle events.
“It took me by surprise, but there’s still a long way to go in the meet.”
Teenage triple world-record holder Katie Ledecky of the United States retained her 400m freestyle title at the World Aquatics Championships on Sunday to continue her dominance of the distance events.
Ledecky’s victory gave the United States their 100th gold medal in women’s events at all World Aquatics Championships.
The 18-year-old, who holds the world records over 400m, 800m and 1500m, led by two body lengths at the halfway stage and won gold in three minutes, 59.13 seconds to set a new championship record.
Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands claimed silver at 3.89 seconds back with Australia’s Jessica Ashwood taking bronze at 4.21.
“This gets the momentum going and I couldn’t be happier,” beamed Ledecky, who has only just graduated from high school.
She scooped the fifth world title of her career with a commanding display and she admitted she was disappointed not to break her own world record, having come within a second of it.
“I think it’s a very competitive event and I could feel the other girls racing really hard so that gets me going. It was a fast race,” she said.
“When I touched the wall, I kind of felt that I had it (broken her world record), so it took me a second to realise that, but at the same time I can’t complain about another world championship medal.
“This gives me a lot of confidence to do well the rest of the week. It gets me excited to do well.”
Having won the 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle Olympic titles at London 2012 while just 15 years old, Ledecky then completed the same set at the 2013 world championships when she ended up win- ning four gold medals including the 4x200m freestyle relay title.
She set world records over the 800m and 1500m freestyle in Barcelona two years go, then bettered both last year and also set a new record in the 400m at the Pan-Pacific Games last August.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom broke the women’s 100m butterfly world record in the semi-finals last night. It was the first record to fall in Kazan as the world champion clocked 55.74 seconds to break Dana Vollmer’s previous record of 55.98 seconds.