BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — With Katie Ledecky getting the night off, Hungary’s Iron Lady seized the moment Monday at the world championships.
Katinka Hosszu lived up to her country’s enormous expectations with an electrifying victory in the 200-meter individual medley, spurred on by a flag-waving, foot-stomping crowd at Duna Arena.
The new 12,000-seat aquatic facility along the Danube was packed all the way to the rafters, and it was clear who most of the fans came to see.
Hosszu didn’t let them down.
“It’s really hard to put into words what it means to win at home,” she said. “It definitely gives you extra energy and motivation. It was just crazy.”
Hosszu led from start to finish in the race encompassing all four swimming strokes, finishing off with the freestyle and a time of 2 minutes, 7.00 seconds. It was nearly a second slower than her world-record performance at the Rio Olympics last summer but enough to hold off hard-charging Yui Ohashi of Japan, who settled for silver in 2:07.91.
The bronze went to Madisyn Cox of the United States in 2:09.71, just ahead of teammate Melanie Margolis.
After touching the wall, Hosszu pounded the water, stuck out her tongue and climbed atop a lane rope to acknowledge the raucous crowd. Her husband and coach, Shane Tusup, pumped his fists and led out a guttural scream.
Hosszu popped out of the water and ran around the deck to embrace Tusup, who handed her a red cap emblazoned with the nickname she received a few years ago for her grueling repertoire of events.
“This is pretty much how I felt the first time I won,” she said.
Hosszu wasn’t the only big name to claim gold on the second night of swimming.
Britain’s Adam Peaty romped to victory in the 100-meter breaststroke, while Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom just missed breaking her own world record in the 100 butterfly.
After claiming two golds on Sunday , Ledecky’s lone race was the morning preliminaries of the 1,500 freestyle. She breezed through the grueling event in 15:47.57 — nearly 18 seconds faster than second-fastest qualifier Mireia Belmonte of Spain.
The final is Tuesday night.
“It felt good,” Ledecky said. “I know how to manage the schedule. I just kind of have to work through the prelims as easy as I can to keep myself rested.”
In the semifinals of the women’s 100 breast, Olympic gold medalist Lilly King and Yulia Efimova set up a rematch of their bitter race in Rio, where the finger-wagging American called out her Russian rival for a history of doping violations .
Efimova was the fastest qualifier at 1:04.35 — just one-hundredth of a second off the world record — and King was right behind at 1:04.53.
Peaty, who now sports a massive lion tattoo on his left arm, made the turn under his world-record pace from Rio but faded a bit on the return lap to touch in 57.47. The unquestioned breaststroke king missed his mark of 57.13 yet still turned in the second-fastest time ever in the event.
His ultimate goal is to become the first breaststroker to break the 57-second barrier, a quest he has dubbed “Project 56.”
“I’ve a few more 57 races to get down to 56, but I’m just going to follow that curve now and see where I can go,” he said.
The silver went to Kevin Cordes of the United States at 58.79 and Russia’s Kirill Prigoda claimed the bronze (59.05). American Cody Miller, the bronze medalist in Rio, finished fifth.
Having already set a world record with her leadoff leg in the 4x100 freestyle relay, Sjostrom nearly took down another mark in the fly with a winning time of 55.53.
That was just 0.05 seconds off her gold-medal triumph at Rio. When Sjostrom saw the time on the scoreboard, she covered her mouth in surprise.
“It felt like I was going a bit slower than I did yesterday actually, so maybe butterfly is about being all relaxed and then you can be even faster,” said Sjostrom, who didn’t look at all tired a day after racing four times.
Australia’s Emma McKeon (56.18) grabbed the silver and Kelsi Worrell of the U.S. (56.37) settled for bronze. Seventeen-year-old Canadian Penny Oleksiak, a breakout star in Rio with four medals, finished fourth.
Britain earned another gold when Benjamin Proud touched first at 22.79 in the men’s 50 butterfly, a non-Olympic event. Brazil’s Nicholas Santos took the silver (22.84) and Ukraine’s Andrii Govorov grabbed the bronze (22.84) just ahead of American Caeleb Dressel, who came into the final as the fastest qualifier.
“It wasn’t about winning because I knew five people in the race had the opportunity to win,” Proud said. “Fortunately for me I managed to put my race together, handled my time and it came out quite well. It’s a weird feeling because it’s something I’ve been dreaming about for six or seven years.”
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry
For more AP swimming coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Swimming