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Hong Kong’s Lau Shiu-yue competes in a heat for the men’s 100m backstroke event during the Budapest 2022 World Aquatics Championships at Duna Arena. Photo: AFP

Fina World Championships: Hong Kong swimmers fail to reach finals in Sunday morning heats

  • Lau Shiu-yue wins Heat 2 of men’s 100m backstroke but finishes in 35th place overall
  • Stephanie Au seventh in her 100m backstroke heat, but also misses out on qualifying for final

Hong Kong endured an unsuccessful Sunday morning at the 2022 Fina World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, with none of their four simmers making it through their respective heats.

Stephanie Au finished seventh in Heat 3 of the women’s 100-metres backstroke, clocking a time of one minute and 1.62 seconds, which saw her finish 21st overall.

Cheuk Ming-ho was 42nd overall in the men’s 200m freestyle, in a time of 1:51.60, after coming home last out of 10 swimmers in Heat 5.

In the men’s 100m backstroke, Lau Shiu-yue won Heat 2 in a time of 57.06, but was 35th overall and did not qualify.

Nip Tse-yin later finished fourth in Heat 1 of the women’s 1,500m freestyle – and 23rd fastest overall – with a time of 17:15.64.

Hong Kong’s Ho Cheuk-ming prepares to compete in a heat for the men’s 200m freestyle event. Photo: AFP

While many old hands conserved energy during what proved to be a relaxed session overall, several teenagers stood out with big performances on Sunday morning.

One young swimmer in a hurry was Romanian 17-year-old David Popovici. He attacked from the start of his 200m freestyle heat and finished easily fastest in qualifying in 1:45.18.

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South Korean Hwang Sun-woo, 19, was 0.61s behind, followed by Austrian Felix Auboeck, who was fourth in Saturday’s 400m free final. Briton Tom Dean, the Olympic champion, was next.

Saturday’s 400m top two, Australian Elijah Winnington, and German Lukas Martens qualified comfortably.

In contrast, Katie Ledecky was in energy-saving mode as she won her heat in the longest pool event, the 1500m, in 15.47.02.

That was almost 27 seconds outside her world record, but more than nine seconds ahead of the next-best swimmer, Italian Simona Quadrella.

Ledecky, the world record holder and Olympic champion, had her run of three straight world titles broken when she was too ill to race the 1,500m final in Gwangju three years ago after swimming fastest in qualifying. Quadrella took advantage in South Korea to grab the gold.

Katie Ledecky reacts after qualifying during the women’s 1,500m freestyle heats. Photo: Reuters

Sunday morning opened with the heats of the women’s 100m backstroke. None of the 16 swimmers who advanced to the semis needed to match their best times over the last 12 months.

American Regan Smith was fastest followed by Canadian Kylie Massie, the defending champion. Two 17-year-olds, Claire Curzan, from the United States, and Wan Letian from China, were the next two quickest.

World record holder Kaylee McKeown opted to focus on the women’s 200m medley, an Australian team spokesman said.

The competition was a little bit fiercer in the men’s 100m backstroke prelims.

With Evgeny Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov, the Russians who filled the top two steps of the Olympic podium last year banned, there are gaps to be filled and youngsters who want to fill them.

Hunter Armstrong competes during his men’s 100m backstroke heat. Photo: AP

Hunter Armstrong, a 21-year-old American, held off Japanese veteran Ryosuke Irie in a battle that gave them the two fastest times.

They were followed by Greek Apostolos Christou, French 21-year-old Yohann Ndoye-Brouard and Polish 17-year-old Ksawery Masiuk.

Tang Qianting, an 18-year-old from China, set the pace in the women’s 100m breaststroke prelims coming within 0.16s of her career best. Australian Jenna Strauch set a personal best finishing second.

The only Tokyo Olympic medallist competing, bronze medallist Lilly King, qualified seventh.

The American, who is chasing a third straight world title, shelved her normal attacking style and was two-thirds of a second slower than Tang, but still fast enough to advance.

Sunday evening’s session included four finals.