BUDAPEST: A packed crowd at the World Swimming Championships was deprived of a star on Tuesday night when Caeleb Dressel scratched but saw the one they wanted, roaring hometown hero Kristof Milak to a world record.

Milak won the event he dominates, the 200m butterfly, while Dressel, the defending champion, withdrew from the semi-finals of the 100m freestyle and mixed medley relay just before the session.

That put into question the long-awaited showdown between the two in the 100m butterfly, where Dressel holds the world record and beat Milak in the Olympic final last year. Playoffs are Thursday morning.

“Whether Dressel is there or not, I will be there and do everything I can in the 100 butterfly for a gold, a silver or a world record, this is all my focus,” Milak said after winning the 200-meter butterfly in a world record.

“Of course it would be better if my great opponent was here, at home, so to speak, for a face-to-face fight.”

Dressel had swum in Tuesday morning’s heats in the 100 free, finishing second fastest behind Romanian teen sensation David Popovici. Dressel has won the event at the last two world championships and at the Olympics last year.

“Team USA has made a decision in consultation with Caeleb, her coach, and the team’s medical staff for her to withdraw from the 100-meter freestyle event for medical reasons. Their participation in events will be determined by the team later in the week,” a statement from Team USA said. They declined to elaborate.

For the Milak final, a nearly full crowd produced the famous Duna roar for the first time this week.

Milak, the reigning Olympic champion, competing in lane four going to the fastest qualifier, responded with 1 minute 50.34 seconds to shave 0.39 seconds off the world record he set by winning the last world title in 2019.

It was Hungary’s first gold in the competition.

“It’s a completely different experience to go to the pool in front of so many people who support you and who you swim for, it’s mutual,” Milak told Hungarian television.

“When I stepped on the blocks and got ready it felt like I was in a dream, a feeling of being so in the flow.

“This is my house, my pool. I train here, I run four, lane four belongs to me. I really wanted to show something big for these fantastic people.” Milak beat France’s Leon Marchand by 3.03 seconds, but said the energy from the crowd hadn’t been all that helpful.

“I went so fast, the first 50 were stronger than ever, driven by the crowd, that meant the remaining three 50s were no good,” he said.

“From a technical point of view, it wasn’t a good swim, or a smart swim, but if I’m a little bit smarter and with more training, then hopefully I can get an even better time.”

Without Dressel, who swam the butterfly leg as they finished fifth in Tokyo, the United States finished the night by taking gold in the 4x100m medley relay ahead of Australia and the Netherlands.

Olympic champion Bobby Finke made another late surge to win gold in the men’s 800m freestyle.

Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk led for half the race and came into the final corner first with Finke in fourth.

As in Tokyo, the American’s final lap sprint carried him to victory.

His time of 7 minutes and 39.36 seconds was an American record.

German Olympic open water champion Florian Wellbrock also edged out his training partner Romanchuk at the end to take silver.

Another American, Nic Fink, won the men’s 50-meter breaststroke.

He beat 100m gold medalist Nicolo Martinenghi by a microscopic 0.03 seconds.

Yang Junxuan won the women’s 200m freestyle to take China’s first gold of the week.

Wednesday could be a day for rising stars as Canada’s Summer McIntosh, 15, chases her first gold in the women’s 200m butterfly, Popovici, 17, is poised for her second gold in the 100m. men’s freestyle without Dressel, and the 20-year-old Marchand is seeking a gold double in the men’s 200m medley.

Posted on Dawn, June 23, 2022

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