| No. of participating countries: 172
| No. of athletes: 2158
After Perth hosted the World Championships twice, Melbourne was granted the right to stage the event in the spring, from 17 March – 1 April, 2007. For the first time a really iconic location was transformed into the main venue of the championships: the Rod Laver Arena, site of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament, hosted the synchro and the swimming events – and these brilliant settings draw enormous crowds, more than 215 000 visitors set a new attendance record.
2158 athletes from 167 countries attended the event in the summer-like spring season exceeding the athletes’ headcount threshold of 2000 again after the decline in Montreal, 2005.
The World Championships in Melbourne took place in three key venues: St. Kilda Beach hosted the open water swimming events, diving and water polo took place in Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre while a temporary pool was established in the Rod Laver Arena for synchronised swimming and swimming events. The swimming pool was named after Susie O’Neill – Olympic champion of 200m butterfly at the Atlanta Olympics and of 200m freestyle at the Sydney Olympics, holder of altogether 8 Olympic medals.
The US team topped the medal table with 21 gold, 14 silver and 5 bronze medals, while Russia had 11 gold, 6 silver and 8 bronze and the host, Australia claimed 9 gold, 9 silver and 8 bronze medals at the World Championships. A total of 27 nations claimed at least one medal.
Melbourne was not the luckiest place for the Hungarian delegation, men’s water polo team clinched a silver and László Cseh claimed a bronze in200m medley (finishing after Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte), but that was all.
Swimming made the headlines, of course – 1142 swimmers participated in the events and many of them made extraordinary performances. For instance, Michael Phelps, approaching the peak of his career, became world champion in 200m freestyle, 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m and 400m medley, as well as in 4×100 and 4×200 freestyle relay, only missing the medley relay gold due to a DSQ of the US quarter in the prelims for a false takeover – he watched it from the tribune, but achieved the magical 8 a year later at the Beijing Olympics.
Phelps also set a new WR in the 200m free, 200m fly, the two IM events as well as in the longer relay. Fellow swimmers did an excellent job too, Ryan Lochte clinched gold in a relay event as well as in 200m backstroke (and won 3 silver medals), Ben Wildman-Tobriner excelled in 50m freestyle, Aaron Peirsol triumphed in 100m backstroke and Brendan Hansen claimed gold in 100m breaststroke.
Regarding the others, two gold medals were landed by the Polish, stunning many: Przemyslaw Stanczyk in 800m freestyle and Mateusz Sawrymowicz in 1500m freestyle. The gold in 50m butterfly went to Roland Schoeman from South Africa, Gerhard Zandberg, also from South Africa, proved to be the best in 50m backstroke, Ukrainian Oleg Lisogor clinched gold in the 50m breaststroke, Japanese Kosuke Kitajima delivered his breaststroke double again, and the line of world champions continued with South Korean Park Tae-Hwan in 400m freestyle.
Melbourne also saw the tightest 100m freestyle final of all time, as Italian Filippo Magnini and Canadian Brent Hayden finished tied, and the gap between the time of the first and eighth was 0.38sec only.
Aussie women excelled once more, just as they did two years earlier: Libby Lenton won 5 gold medals, in the 50m and 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, as well as in 4×100 freestyle and medley relay. Leisel Jones was the next in line, clinching gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke and medley relay, however, she had to settle for the silver medal in 50m breaststroke (Jessicah Schipper clinched 2 gold and a silver for Australia).
Frenchwoman Laure Manadou could double (200 and 400m freestyle) together with American Katie Ziegler (800 and 1500m freestyle), Katie Hoff (200 and 400m medley), and American Leila Vaziri (50m backstroke), Natalie Coughlin (100m backstroke), Margaret Hoelzer (200m backstroke), Jessica Hardy (50m breaststroke) and Swedish Therese Alshammar (50m butterfly) became world champions, too.
Both the men and women’s open water competitions saw two Russian gold medals apiece and a German world champion. Among the men, Vladimir Dyatchin (10 km) and Yuri Kudinov (25 km) proved to be the best, whereas for women, Larisa Ilchenko won both in the 5 and 10 km. Thomas Lurz from Germany had a similar overall result as in Montreal: a gold (5 km) and a silver (10 km), and the Russian ace Evgeny Drattsev claimed a silver (5 km) and a bronze (10 km). In the women’s field Australian Kate Brookes-Peterson claimed bronze in the 5 and 10 km.
There was only one man who could break the Chinese hegemony in diving – it was Russian diver Gleb Galperin who won the 10m event and claimed silver with Dmiriy Dobroskok in synchronised diving duet. Qin Kai had a double gaining world titles in the 3m and 3m synchronised diving as well. (Iconic Russian diver, Dmitri Sautin claimed a bronze in 3m at the age of 37.)
Among the women, Guo Jingjing had a similar achievement, she won a gold in the solo event, the runner-up was her duet partner Wu Minxia. Beside gold medals clinched by the Chinese, five nations could win medals in diving this time.
In synchro, medals in the technical routine events were up for grabs for the first time, so synchro swimmers competed in a total of seven events now. Russians, the queens of this discipline won 6 out of the 7 events, however, French swimmer, Virginie Dedieu excelled in the solo freestyle event again after her victory in Montreal, ahead of Natalia Ischenko again.
The Spanish did an excellent job resulting in 4 silver and 2 bronze medals for them, Japan claimed 2 silver and a bronze while the US won a bronze medal in an attempt to somewhat balance the Russian dominance.
Regarding men’s water polo, the fight between iconic coaches Dénes Kemény and Ratko Rudic continued and the Croatian legend managed to take the upper hand for the first time. In the final, Croatia came from behind to beat Hungary in the extra.
Hungary breathed through the prelims, beat Germany in the quarters but barely survived the semis against the Spanish team but prevailed in extra-time. In the end the team of Rafael Aguilar beat Serbia (the title-holders lost to the Croats in the semis) in the bronze match by penalties.
Title defender Hungarian women’s water polo team could make it to the semi-final where US team won 10-9 and bettered Australians (who had beaten Russia) in the final (6-5).