Netherlands, China each win two golds at world championships

DOHA, Qatar -- Marrit Steenbergen and Tes Schouten made it a golden night for the Netherlands at the World Aquatics Championships. China was celebrating as well, adding two more victories to its medal haul on Friday.

Steenbergen touched first in the women's 100-meter freestyle and Schouten captured gold in the 200 breaststroke.

The Dutch nearly made it three golds, but China's Dong Zhihao chased down Caspar Corbeau in the men's 200 breast.

With a similar comeback, China rallied on the final lap behind 16-year-old anchor Zhang Zhanshuo for a victory in the men's 4x200 freestyle relay.

Spain's Hugo González captured gold in the night's other final, the men's 200 backstroke.

In the 100 free, Siobhán Haughey of Hong Kong went out strong, making the turn with the lead.

But Steenbergen had the better finishing kick, touching first in 52.26 seconds to improve on a bronze-medal finish at last summer's worlds in Fukuoka and stamp her as one of the top contenders for the Paris Olympics.

"The back half is my specialty," said Steenbergen, who also anchored the winning Dutch team in the 4x100 freestyle relay.

Haughey settled for silver at 52.56, repeating her showing from the 2023 worlds. The bronze went to Shayna Jack of Australia at 52.83, while American Kate Douglass just missed a spot on the podium in fourth.

"My strength is typically in the first half of the race," Haughey said. "I died a little at the end, but that's OK. That's how I swim the 100."

The reigning world champion, Australia's Mollie O'Callaghan, skipped the Doha meet to focus on the Olympics. World record-holder Sarah Sjöström of Sweden is at the championships but withdrew from the 100 free before the preliminaries to focus on the 50 butterfly.

The 30-year-old Sjöström was top qualifier in the semifinals at 25.08 as she goes for her sixth straight world title in the non-Olympic event.

On a grueling night, Douglass returned to the deck about 45 minutes later for the final of the 200 breast. She didn't have enough to keep up with Schouten, who set the pace right from the start and breezed to victory in 2 minutes, 19.81 seconds.

"I felt really good," Schouten said. "There not much lose. Just go out hard and see what happens. That's what I did and it turned out pretty good."

Douglass still managed to grab the silver (2:20.91), while the bronze went to Sydney Pickrem of Canada at 2:22.94.

"That was definitely a tough double," Douglass said. "But a silver is awesome."

Corbeau used the same strategy as Schouten, going out fast and doing his best to hold on. It nearly worked, but Dong produced a dazzling final lap to win in 2:07.94.

The 18-year-old Chinese swimmer went nearly 2 seconds faster than Corbeau on the last 50, relegating the Dutchman to a silver at 2:08.24. The bronze went to American Nic Fink at 2:08.85, his fourth medal of the championships.

"You might as well fly and die and put it all on the line," Corbeau said. "Those last 20 meters were real bad."

In the last race of the night, the U.S. built a big lead in the relay but Zhang was too strong at the end. He combined with teammates Ji Xinjie, Wang Haoyu and Pan Jhanle for a winning time of 7:01.84.

China had previously taken gold in the men's 4x100 free relay.

"That is my personal (best)," Zhang said. "What can I say? Anything is possible!"

South Korea took the silver at 7:01.94, while the Americans -- missing many of their top swimmers in Doha -- faded to the bronze in 7:02.08.

China now has six swimming gold medals, tied with the U.S., and 22 victories overall in Doha -- more than twice as many as any other nation at the championships.

González, who earned silver in the 100 backstroke, claimed the top spot on the podium in the 200 back at 1:55.30.

"It's great to swim the backstroke fast again and be one of the fastest swimmers in the world," said González, who trains at the University of California.

Roman Mityukov of Switzerland led most of the way before Gonzalez edged him at the end. The runner-up's time was 1:55.40, with the bronze going to South Africa's Pieter Coetze at 1:55.99.