KAZAN // Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy won the 1,500 freestyle at the world championships in a race that shockingly went off without two-time defending champion Sun Yang of China.
Sun did not appear during introductions and Lane 3 remained empty instead of being filled by reserve Pal Joensen of the Faroe Islands.
“Today I came here and during the warm up in the pool, I feel uncomfortable in the heart, so I have to give up competition,” Sun said through a translator after the races. “I feel sorry because of that.”
Fina spokesman Pedro Adrega said Chinese team officials told him Sun felt a “chest sensation” during warm ups.
“As there was not enough time to evaluate the situation or to check his medical condition, they decided to withdraw,” he said.
Sun appeared at the end of the night to receive the best male swimmer award. He was subdued on the podium with female winner Katie Ledecky of the United States. Sun whispered in the ear of Fina president Julio Maglione as he accepted the trophy.
Brazil men’s coach Alberto Silva said there was an incident in the warm-up pool yesterday morning when one of his female swimmers was in the same lane as Sun, though Silva did not think that was why Sun was a no-show for the final.
“There was a discussion,” said Silva, who added that no one was injured. “It’s a short girl and a big guy. He went across (her).”
Silva said he complained to officials of world governing body Fina and they spoke to a Chinese team official.
“(The Chinese) came to the Brazilians and said sorry. That’s it,” said Silva, who declined to identify the Brazilian swimmer.
Sun was back at the biggest meet before next year’s Olympics after serving a doping suspension last year. He won the 400 and 800 freestyle at Kazan and was a strong favourite in the 1,500, which he won at the London Olympics. Sun was second in the 200 free.
Paltrinieri took the lead from Ryan Cochrane of Canada at 500 metres and controlled the pace the rest of the way, touching in 14 minutes, 39.67 seconds. He was second to Sun in the 800 and their rematch had been highly anticipated.
“I didn’t know what to do or think,” the Italian said. “It was really terrible without him.” The other seven finalists were in the call room wondering where Sun was.
“I started saying, ‘He’s afraid of us and he’s not coming’,” Paltrinieri said. “Then he really didn’t show up.”
Sun’s absence threw off the Italian’s race strategy.
“I’ve been training for two years on how to beat him, right down to the smallest details,” Paltrinieri said. “I had to change everything.” Connor Jaeger of the United States finished second in 14:41.20. Cochrane, who was under world-record pace through 400 metres, was third in 14:51.08.
The United States received the best team trophy for the eight-day meet.
Katinka Hosszu of Hungary made a run at the world record in the women’s 400 individual medley before falling short on the last freestyle lap. She won in 4:30.39, after being 3.81 under world-record pace after five laps. Hosszu, nicknamed “Iron Lady” for her relentless event schedule, also won the 200 IM in world-record time, with Maya DiRado of the United States second and Emily Overholt of Canada third.
Japan’s Daiya Seto cruised to a 1.40-second victory for his second consecutive title in the 400m individual medley on the final night of swimming.
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