Italian teammates Federico Morlacchi and Simone Barlaam shared gold after clocking identical times on a night of barely believable drama at the London 2019 World Para Swimming Allianz Championships on Wednesday.
The Italian one-two in the men’s 100m butterfly S9 capped a crazy 15-minute period in which another packed London Aquatics Centre crowd were also treated to a tie for bronze and a gold medal won by the narrowest permissible margin.
“We both just touched home and said to each other, ‘I lost’, but we had both won,” Morlacchi said of his joint gold with Barlaam (1:00.36).
“It’s crazy. In training in the past months we have said, ‘Imagine if we tied for the gold?’ and it’s happened.”
Barlaam was over half a second ahead of the rest at the turn as Morlacchi – the world record holder over the distance – languished down in sixth.
“It’s always the same when I go fast in the first 50, I die on the way back and he does the opposite,” Barlaam said. “Sharing the podium is one thing but sharing first place is everything. It’s so special - I’m speechless.”
Moments earlier, Dzmitry Salei of Belarus and Raman Salei of Azerbaijan showed that while they may be brothers representing different countries, there was to be no separating them either in the men’s 50m freestyle S12. They tied for bronze behind Ukraine’s Illia Yaramenko and Yaroslav Denysenko.
In between the dead heats, Brazil’s Maria Gomes Santiago pushed Anna Krivshina of Russia out of the gold medal position in the women’s 50m freestyle S12 by just one hundredth-of-a-second (27.41). In the same race, Krivshina’s teammate Mariia Latritskaia denied Germany’s Elena Krawzow the bronze by only three-hundredths.
NO TIE FOR TAI
The day three drama did not end there.
Britain’s Alice Tai had coasted to two world record swims at London 2019 and again went out quick in the women’s 100m butterfly S8 before being hauled back in the second 50m by Jessica Long of USA.
With the pair almost level, Long ran out of water and Tai touched home in 1:09.76 – just 0.02 seconds ahead of the American.
“My coach said just take it out and you’ll be fine, and I then I really paid for that in the last few metres,” Tai said.
“I’m just a bit stunned that I managed to get that one, because I saw Jess glide in to finish and I added a stroke, so I was freaking out as I thought she was going to touch. I couldn’t see the board, either, so I was like, ‘I don’t what’s happened’.”
In another dramatic finish, Great Britain’s Maisie Summers-Newton was neck-and-neck with Ukraine’s Paralympic champion Yelyzaveta Mereshko after the first three components of the women’s 200m individual medley, before pulling clear in the free to touch home half a second inside her own world record (2:57.24). For the third time in as many races, Mereshko had to settle for silver.
There was no such tension for Sophie Pascoe of New Zealand, who landed her third gold medal in as many nights in the women’s S9 class, winning the 100m butterfly by over three seconds from 16-year-old Brit Toni Shaw.
SMITH BOUNCES BACK
In the women’s 150m individual medley SM4, Leanne Smith of the USA completed a remarkable turnaround to win her first world championships gold medal, converting a six-second deficit on Arjola Trimi in the morning heats into a five-second advantage over the Italian in the final.
“I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet,” Smith said. “I kept looking back at the board to see my time and make sure that it was in line with my name and USA. I’m in a bit of shock right now but I’m really excited to get to that podium and hear our anthem play.”
In the men’s 100m breaststroke SB14, Naohide Yamaguchi won Japan’s first gold medal of London 2019 and lowered the world record of the swimmer he beat into silver, Scott Quin of Great Britain (1:04.95).
There were two further world record performances on Wednesday. Carlos Serrano sliced over a second off his own world record as he won the men’s 100m breaststroke SB7 in a time of 1:11.31, while China’s Ma Jia clocked 1:22.36 to win the women’s 100m breaststroke SB11.
Live results, live streaming and athlete information can be found on the official London 2019 website. https://www.paralympic.org/london-2019