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Americans finish with flourish as Canadian McIntosh wins second swimming gold

The United States salvaged some pride with three golds on the final night of swimming’s world championships on Sunday, while Canadian teen Summer McIntosh showcased her immense talent with a second title.

The Americans went into the last day of competition in Fukuoka with only four golds to their name, with no chance of catching runaway leaders Australia at the top of the medal table.

But Hunter Armstrong kicked off a late gold rush with victory in the men’s 50m backstroke, while later US success in the men’s and women’s 4x100m medley relays capped off the night.

“This is the cherry on top,” said women’s relay member Regan Smith.

“Bringing home a gold for Team USA in the last event means so much to me and all of us.”

Sixteen-year-old McIntosh won the 400m individual medley to add to the 200m butterfly title she won earlier in the week.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom also picked up her second gold in the women’s 50m freestyle, while Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte set a new world record in winning the women’s 50m breaststroke.

Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui took the 1,500m freestyle title after an epic final.

Australia finished on top of the medals table with 13 golds, equalling their best ever, but the Americans’ final flurry gave them seven to leapfrog over China’s five.

The US finished with the most medals overall, beating Australia 38 to 25.

“We have a lot of pride in representing our country and it’s a great way to go out,” said men’s 4×100 medley relay member Ryan Murphy.

‘Battle with emotions’

McIntosh also finished the championships strongly, defending her 400m IM title in 4min, 27.11sec, ahead of American Katie Grimes on 4:31.41 and Australia’s Jenna Forrester on 4:32.30.

McIntosh had to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on a medal and losing her world record to Australia’s Ariarne Titmus in the 400m freestyle on opening night.

McIntosh said finishing fourth in that race was “definitely motivating”.

“I try to turn everything that goes wrong into motivation somehow,” she said.

“I try to look at all the positives because I learned so much from that race.”

Sjostrom won the women’s 50m freestyle a day after breaking her own world record in the semi-finals.

She touched the wall in 23.62sec to finish ahead of Australia’s Shayna Jack on 24.10 and China’s Zhang Yufei on 24.15.

Sjostrom has now won a total of 21 individual world championships medals, one more than American great Michael Phelps.

“I’m super-proud that I was able to handle the pressure again,” said the 29-year-old.

“I’ve done this many times now but it’s a battle with emotions.”

Meilutyte set a new world record in the women’s 50m breaststroke, clocking 29.16sec to finish ahead of American Lilly King on 29.94 and Italy’s Benedetta Pilato on 30.04.

Meilutyte tied the previous world record of 29.30 in Saturday’s semi-finals.

Tunisia’s Hafnaoui won the men’s 1,500m freestyle after a fierce dogfight with American Olympic champion Bobby Finke that went right to the wire.

Hafnaoui, who won the 800m freestyle title earlier in the week, came home in 14min, 31.54sec to finish ahead of Finke on 14:31.59 and Australia’s Sam Short on 14:37.28.

The Tunisian’s time was less than a second off the world record of 14:31.02 set by China’s Sun Yang in 2012.

Armstrong was also involved in a close contest in the men’s 50m backstroke.

He touched the wall in 24.05sec to beat compatriot Justin Ress on 24.24 and China’s Xu Jiayu on 24.50.

Armstrong said “every detail matters” over such a short distance and the result is “rarely a reflection of talent”.

“It is who can put together the best race that day,” said Armstrong, the world record holder.

“Fortunately, I was able to get my hand on the wall first night, but I have a feeling Justin and I will be doing this for many years down the road.”