China's Sun Yang celebrates after the men's 400m freestyle swimming heats at Fina World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea on July 21, 2019. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)
GWANGJU, South Korea, July 21 (Xinhua) -- China's Olympic champion Sun Yang advanced into finals as frontrunner, launching quest to win his fourth consecutive world championship title in the men's 400m freestyle on the first day of swimming competition at the 18th FINA World Championships here on Sunday.
Sun finished first in three minutes and 44.10 seconds in his heat. Lithuania's Danas Rapsys sealed second in 3:44.31, and Jack Alan Mcloughlin of Australia came next in 3:44.79.
Among 47 competitors, China's Ji Xinjie placed eighth to punch the last ticket to the finals slated in the evening.
"It is always difficult to swim the first race, and everyone is the same. My goal in the morning is to make the final and do what I should do," Sun said.
"I trained very hard this year. I want to show my best in every race I compete. It is a good rehearsal for next year's Olympic Games," the three-time Olympic gold medalist added.
In the opening race, Ye Shiwen of China qualified for semifinals as runner-up in the women's 200m individual medley (IM) preliminaries.
Ye finished with 2:09.45, 2.43 seconds behind the frontrunner Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, the three-time defending champion in the 200m IM.
Melanie Margalis of the United States sealed third in the heats among 36 competitors. Chinese swimmer Yu Yiting placed 16th to punch the last ticket to the semifinals scheduled for later in the day.
U.S. swimming star Katie Ledecky led the women's 400m freestyle heats, finishing in 4:01:84. She won gold medals in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m free at the past three straight world championships from 2013 to 2017.
Ledecky was trailed by Ariarne Titmus of Australia and Ajna Kesely of Hungary who finished second and third with 4:02.42 and 4:03.51 each in the preliminaries.
China's Wang Jianjiahe sealed fourth to qualify for finals later in the day, but her teammate Li Bingjie placed ninth among 43 contestants, failing to be inside the cutoff line of the top eight.
Caeleb Dressel of the United States, who won seven titles in Budapest two years ago, took the lead in the men's 50m butterfly preliminaries, finishing with 22.84 seconds to qualify for semifinals.
Andrii Govorov of Ukraine was tied for first position, followed by Oleg Kosstin of Russia with 23.01 seconds.
In the women's 100m butterfly trials, China's Zhang Yufei finished 12th to qualify for semifinals. Her teammate Wang Yichun placed 18th, failing to be included in the next-round races.
China's Yan Zibei and Wang Lizhuo came in fourth and 12th positions each among 87 swimmers in the men's 100m breaststroke heats, advancing into semifinals in the evening.
China's swimming team advanced into finals in the women's 4x100m freestyle relay, but the men's team was not fast enough to make it into the the 4x100m freestyle relay finals as they finished 17th among 27 competitors.
The swimming events of the Gwangju worlds began on Sunday, with a total of 42 gold medals up for grabs in the pool. The first four golds will be awarded on the first day.
Team China sent a squad of 43 swimmers to the Gwangju worlds.