Kuchkarova Nears Own Uzbekistani 100 Backstroke Record at World Championships
KAZAN, Russia – Yulduz Kuckharova used a record-setting performance at the 2014 Asian Games to start one of the best backstroke seasons by any Kansas Jayhawk. She was fast again early Monday morning, nearing her own Uzbekistani national record in the 100-meter backstroke prelims at the 16th FINA World Championships at Kazan Arena.
Kuchkarova, swimming in lane seven of the third of seven heats, swam a 1:02.80 in prelims to finish third in her heat and posted the 39th-fastest time in a morning session that saw Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu swim the fastest time in the world (58.78) and then-seventh-fastest women’s 100 backstroke of all-time.
Kuchkarova’s swim was nearly four-tenths of a second faster than her 1:03.18 posted at last year’s Asian Games and just 0.08 off the 1:02.67 she swam at the 2014 Speedo Sectionals in Columbia, Missouri, just weeks before starting a 2014-15 campaign at Kansas that ended with runner-up finishes in both the 100- and 200-yard backstroke at the Big 12 Championship Meet. Both her times at the conference rank as the No. 2 all-time swims at KU behind Iuliia Kuzhil’s effort at the 2010 NCAA Championship.
“To be honest, I’m a little disappointed in my performance and was expecting more,” Kuchkarova said via email late Monday afternoon. “The 100 back is the event that I want to qualify in for the Olympics the most. In order to make the team I have to be closer to one minute and I thought I had a chance to do that today, but it didn’t happen.”
The FINA World Championships is an aquatic competition held every other year featuring the best swimmers in the world, a field that was in top form Monday. In the semi-finals of the 100 backstroke, Emily Seebohm (Australia) swam the new fastest time in the world this year (58.56) as all eight finalists turned in times of 59.71 or faster to set up a fast event final for Tuesday.
Monday’s competition marked the first use of a backstroke starting wedge at the FINA World Championships, a non-slip surface that’s removed from the water by an official after the start of the race. While the wedge eased some athletes’ concerns about footing at the start, some athletes, like Kuchkarova have limited experience with the device.
“Before the race, in the warm-up session I felt ready and fast in the water,” Kuchkarova said. “On the start I was thinking about the (wedge) for backstroke dives because in warm ups it fell down when I was practicing my dives. I was a little afraid it would fall again, and was focused on that. My dive was not good, so from the start of the race it didn’t go as I had planned.
“Still, I think first 50 meters was okay, but the second half was a little bit of a struggle because I got really tight right after the turn and wasn’t smooth in the water. All I was thinking about was not letting go of the girl in the next lane. Overall, I’m looking forward to my next opportunities to race.”
Several world records have fallen at this year’s meet, including the 1500-meter freestyle by Katie Ledecky (United States) and the 100-meter butterfly by Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden), twice, among others.
Kuchkarova will swim again Wednesday morning in the 50-meter backstroke, the Tashkent, Uzbekistan native’s second and final event of the World Championships. With a qualifying time of 29.31 – another national record swum at last year’s Asian Games – Kuchkarova will swim in lane six during the third of six heats.
The junior-to-be, who swam for Uzbekistan at the 2012 London Olympics, will also compete at the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup event in Moscow, Russia, August 11-12, before returning to Lawrence, Kansas to begin training with the Jayhawks. Kansas swimming and diving opens the 2015-16 season on Oct. 2 with an intrasquad meet before starting the regular season with a double dual against Denver and Missouri State, Oct. 23-24. Both meets, the first of eight total home events in the area, will be held inside Robinson Natatorium.
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