Highs and lows of World Swimming Championships: From Dressel's dominating show to Sun's doping controversy

The World Swimming Championships had its share of highs and lows, including Caeleb Dressel's spectacular show that saw him bag eight medals and break Michael Phelps' record, and the doping controversy surrounding Chinese star Sun Yang.

Caeleb Dressel bettered Michael Phelps’s 10-year-old 100 metres butterfly world record and clinched a stunning six gold medals and two silvers at the World Swimming Championships.   -  Getty Images

American superstar Caeleb Dressel has invited comparisons to Olympic legend Michael Phelps after lighting up a world swimming championships plagued by doping rows, a sexual harassment arrest and a fatal nightclub accident.

Dressel came away from Gwangju with six gold medals and two silvers, winning all four of his individual events and obliterating Phelps’s 10-year-old 100 metres butterfly world record for good measure.

But even the heroics of swimming’s tattooed golden boy were often overshadowed by an explosive doping controversy, which was looming even before Chinese giant Sun Yang set foot in South Korea.

RELATED| ’I’m just protecting athletes’, China's Sun cries foul over doping accusations

Australia’s Mack Horton and Briton Duncan Scott refused to shake Sun’s hand after losing to the hulking Chinese swimmer, provoking a furious reaction from Sun, who yelled at Scott: “You’re a loser!” Sun, who retained his 200 and 400m freestyle world titles, insisted he was “protecting each and every athlete” by refusing to let what he called “unlicensed” testers take his blood.

“He’s not a drug cheat,” Sun’s coach Denis Cotterell told AFP, adding that Chinese swimming has taken “meticulous care” to clean up its act since the state-sponsored doping of the 1990s.

Sun Yang’s Australian coach Denis Cotterell maintains that the Chinese star swimmer is clean.   -  FILE PHOTO/ GETTY IMAGES

 

“It’s absolutely critical for the athletes, the association, for the whole sake of China’s respect on a world stage that they’re well and truly distanced from that past,” said the Australian, claiming that Sun was one of the most tested athletes in swimming.

- ‘Dangerous’ at Olympics -

Above the fray, Dressel repeated in the 50 and 100m freestyle, as well as the 100m butterfly -- but not before setting an eye-popping new world best of 49.50 seconds to eclipse Phelps’s old bodysuit mark by 0.32.

Inevitably, talk turned to next year’s Tokyo Olympics and whether Dressel can emulate Phelps, who racked up a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games.

But Dressel revealed he had been feeling the strain. “I’ve got pimples on my face, I’m losing some hair,” said the 22-year-old, who swept to seven gold medals at the 2017 world championships in Budapest.

RELATED| Dressel looks for negatives after golden swim treble

“This is a lot of stress but I’m not sitting in my room flipping through my medals. I won less than seven, that doesn’t bug me one bit.

“If this is where we’re at heading to Tokyo, we’ll be very dangerous next year,” added Dressel, after the United States once again topped the medals table with 14 golds -- nine more than nearest rivals Australia.

Dressel said he had been “absolutely devastated” to hear that two people had died and several athletes injured when a balcony inside a Gwangju nightclub collapsed at the weekend.

- Australian relay star tests positive for banned substance -

Australia relay star Shayna Jack had tested positive for a banned substance before the championships. Twenty-year-old Jack, part of Australia’s 4x100m freestyle team that set a world record last year, tested positive to Ligandrol, which helps build muscle mass, out of competition late last month.

Shayna Jack tested positive to Ligandrol, which helps build muscle mass, out of competition late last month.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

But it only came to light at the weekend, in a huge embarrassment for Australian swimming after Olympic champion Horton’s high-profile protest against Sun.

RELATED| Swimming Australia: Shayna Jack drug test revelation embarrassing

She returned home days before the event started, citing “personal reasons”, and on Sunday strenuously denied intentionally taking the substance, which can be found in contaminated supplements.

“I’ve been in contact with her all the time. The girl is devastated. I’m devastated. I love my athletes,” her coach Dean Boxall told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday.

“I support Shayna, I support Swimming Australia and I certainly support our stance on zero tolerance for drug cheating. So does Shayna. That’s why she left immediately. We followed the process,” he added.

- Kenderesi ‘sorry’ for touching nightclub dancer -

Hungarian swimmer Tamas Kenderesi has apologised for “thoughtlessly touching” a nightclub dancer after being arrested on sexual harassment charges during the world championships.

The 22-year-old Olympic bronze medallist has been banned from leaving the country while police investigate the incident at a bar in Gwangju, around 330 kilometres (200 miles) south of Seoul, at the weekend.

Tamas Kenderesi in action at the World Swimming Championships.   -  Reuters

 

Kenderesi has admitted making contact with his accuser but denies charges of sexual harassment. “After coming back from the toilets and heading towards the dance floor, I touched the backside of a Korean girl who was working as a dancer at the club,” the swimmer said in a statement.

RELATED| Hungarian swimmer Kenderesi held in Korea over alleged sexual harassment

“I did not even stop behind her -- I took only a single, perhaps thoughtless move, which seriously angered this girl who filed a complaint against me.

“Realising the seriousness of the situation, I was absolutely cooperative throughout the entire process,” added Kenderesi, who finished last in the men’s 200 metres butterfly final last week.

Kenderesi added that he had not been shown the video of the incident but insisted: “I honestly believe my words will be justified by the footage (and reveal) I did not commit any serious offence. However, I have to understand that I hurt certain moral norms, which are the foundations of the local values.”

- ‘Days of Our Lives’ -

“The scriptwriters for ‘Days of Our Lives’ couldn’t have written a better script for this world championships,” said Australia’s Cate Campbell, who won two relay golds and took silver behind American Simone Manuel in the women’s 100m free.

“It’s thrown a bit of everything at us.” In the pool, nine world records tumbled in Korea, Hungarian teenager Kristof Milak pulverising Phelps’s 200m butterfly mark by a whopping 0.78 seconds in arguably the pick of them.

But with Sun facing a September hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the spectre of doping was never far away.

Asked about athletes vilifying China’s sporting hero, Russia’s Yulia Efimova took a long pause. “Of course it’s not good,” said the former doping offender. “It was really hard for me, just a girl against the world when everyone hates me. I hope it will not happen again.”