She may have been left in the shade by a record-breaking Kylie Masse, but Emily Seebohm has finally emerged from her post-Rio “black hole” by clinching world championship bronze in the 100-metres backstroke.
Canada’s Masse ended Seebohm’s title defence in dramatic fashion, clocking a world record 58.10 seconds to claim gold, breaking the longest-standing record in women’s swimming – the 58.12 set by Briton Gemma Spofforth during the 2009 supersuit era.
Seebohm (58.59) had hoped to become only the second woman, and first since East Germany’s Ulrike Richter in 1975, to defend her world 100m backstroke crown after her Rio disappointment.
The 11-year team veteran had returned to peak fitness after health issues sabotaged her Rio Olympics, finishing second-last in the 100m and missing the 200m backstroke final entirely.
But Seebohm, who is also defending her 200m crown at Budapest, said she had no complaints with bronze after emerging from her career-questioning post-Rio funk.
“With Rio being in this black hole almost, it’s nice to enjoy being around the pool and racing these girls again,” the 25-year-old said.
“After Rio I did a big job in turning it around and getting out of the hole I was in.
“It just goes to show all the hard work I did after Rio.”
“I am stoked with that, so proud to be back on the podium,” she added after finishing behind silver medallist Kathleen Baker by 0.01 of a second.
Meanwhile, Seebohm’s partner, Mitch Larkin, also failed to defend his 100m backstroke crown, finishing sixth in Tuesday night’s medal race as China’s Xu Jiayu claimed gold.
Larkin is also 200m backstroke defending champion in Hungary but was not expected to threaten for gold in Budapest after changing coaches ahead of the Rio Games, linking with Bronte and Cate Campbell’s mentor Simon Cusack to focus on Tokyo 2020.
“If I wanted to defend my titles I wouldn’t have changed coaches,” Larkin said.
Fellow Australian Emma McKeon qualified second-fastest for the 200m freestyle final behind American great Katie Ledecky, who dominated the field yet again in the 1,500m final.
Ledecky finished in 15:31.82, which was 19.07 seconds ahead of Spain’s Mireia Belmonte (15:50.89) in second.
The 20-year-old has broken the world record in the event five times, including twice at 2015’s worlds in Russia, with Belmonte and the rest of the field always racing for second.
“Katie Ledecky is on another planet,” Belmonte said.
“So the goal of the race was to win the silver medal. For me, it is gold!”