USA had many reasons to celebrate 4 July's Independence Day at the 2019 International University Sports Federation (FISU) Summer Universiade in Napoli, Italy thanks to the efforts of their swimmers.
Both the men’s and women’s 4x100m freestyle ended in glory for the Americans whilst there was also success in the women’s 400 metre individual medley.
The first day of action at the Summer Universiade saw the much-anticipated swimming competition get underway at the Piscina Scandone, beginning the first of seven successive days of non-stop action in the water with a total of 40 medals up for grabs. An array of both men’s and women’s competitions were on the agenda with a series of heats taking place in the morning, followed by five semi-finals and four finals later in the day.
The first final – in the men’s 400m freestyle – turned out to be a thriller and saw Japan’s Keisuke Yoshida took gold. His time of 3.49.48 was just quick enough to claim victory, finishing 0.56 seconds ahead of Matteo Ciampi in second, with Russia’s Anton Nikitin taking bronze.
The 400m individual medley final saw USA’s Makayla Sargent win gold with a time of 4.37.95. Her national teammate Genevieve Pfeifer followed closely behind in second, with Italian Ilaria Cusinato coming in third.
Then victories in the finals of both the men’s and women’s 4x100m freestyle made it a fitting end to Independence Day for the USA. The women’s team clinched gold and set a new Universiade Record of 3.37.99 in the process, with Japan and Italy second and third respectively. The men’s team meanwhile edged out Brazil in second and Italy in third to seal a special day of success for America’s swimmers.
Whilst it was the opening day of competition in the swimming, it was the third day of action in diving which saw China claim three out of the four gold medals on offer.
Shoulin Song of China opened the medal tally as she and compatriot Chunting Wu dominated the women’s 1m springboard competition in the Mostra d’Oltremare pool. On a searing hot day, Song and Wu struck gold and silver, ahead of American Daria Tabea Lenz. Despite two fancied Mexican Olympians in the fray – Carolina Hernandez and Dolores Monzon – it was the two Chinese divers that had set the standard in the preliminaries, finishing first and second. They kept up that form going into the finals, with Wu taking the lead in the first of five rounds with a score of 54.00. Daria Tabea Lenz stayed neck and neck with her, with an identical score as Song and Mendoza followed with scores of 50.40.
Through the next three rounds of dives, the lead went back and forth between Song, Wu, Lenz and Mendoza. It was in the last round that Song pulled off the real stunner. Trailing her teammate Wu by a narrow margin – 199.85 to 200.40 – she nailed her forward two and a half somersault dive to perfection eliciting a roar from the Chinese contingent. The 58.5 points she scored were more than enough to seal gold as despite Wu’s best efforts, she could only manage 55.90 in her last dive. Song top-scored with a total of 258.35 after five dives to claim the gold, with Wu wrapping up a one-two finish for China. Lenz won bronze for America on their Independence Day.
China’s Chengming Liu made it a second diving gold of the day for China, as he pulled off a series of near perfect dives to win the men’s 1m springboard title. Finishing with 399.00 points Liu finished 42 points ahead of his nearest rival, Germany’s Frithjof Seidel, who scored 357.75. Gabriele Auber earned Italy’s first medal of the Universiade with a third-place finish, earning 356.20 points from his six dives.
Liu made it a golden double with victory in the men’s 3m springboard final having climbed back up the standings after being in eighth position following the second round of dives. However, strong dives in the last three rounds and a fine last dive saw Liu total 421.20 points to finish on top. Jaegyeong Yi of South Korea won the silver medal, ahead of Russian Ilia Molchanov who also came from behind to finish with a flourish, ending with 409.65 points.
Alejandra Estrella made up for the morning’s disappointment for Team Mexico, as she won gold in the women’s 10m platform competition. Estrella finished a whole 46 points ahead of the next competitor with a total of 327.65 points from her six dives. Cho Eun-bi of South Korea took silver with 281.25 points and Britain’s Gemma Louise McArthur took bronze, scoring 267.95 points.
The first day of the Judo competition saw seven final winners decided on Ippon, a winning move that awards the highest score. The sizeable crowd at Pavilion 6 at Mostra d’Oltremare was thrilled as team Japan emerged biggest winner of the day, with one gold medal and two silver. They were closely followed by Russia with one gold, one silver and one bronze.
One of the most eye-catching matches was the women’s 70kg gold medal bout between Japan’s Shiho Tanaka and Russia’s Madina Taimazova. In an aggressive and tense encounter, the two could not be separated in regulation time meaning the bout went into overtime. However, within seconds of the restart, Tanaka defeated Taizamova with ippon to take the gold medal.
In the women’s +70kg category, Korea’s Mi Jin Han of Korea took gold over Japan’s Maya Akiba.
Austria’s Johannes Pacher won the gold medal in the men’s 90kg category, also with ippon over Georgia’s Lasha Bekauri. Russia’s Ruslan Shakhbazov earned the gold medal in the +90kg competition, overcoming Kanta Nakano of Japan,
In women’s basketball, reigning champions Australia begin title with a 68-51 victory against Finland in Group D. In the group’s other match China defeated Canada 84-69.
Chinese Taipei scored a 75-54 win against Slovakia as the United States defeated neighbours Mexico 60-49 in Group C.
Group A saw wins for Japan, who defeated Ukraine 63-48, and Czech Republic, who edged Hungary out 56-54. Portugal saw off the challenge of Argentina with a 64-50 triumph in Group B as Russia eased to a 59-31 victory against Romania.