Hammer time: Five to watch at the swimming world championships

Alastair HIMMER
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China's Sun Yang attends a training session ahead of the 2019 World Championships at Nambu International Aquatics Centre in Gwangju on July 16, 2019

From the graceful elegance of Canadian teen Taylor Ruck to the brute force of China's Sun Yang, five swimmers to look out for at the world swimming championships in Gwangju:

- Sun storm -

Chinese giant Sun Yang finds himself at the centre of another doping storm after being cleared to compete at the world championships by swimming's ruling body FINA despite explosive allegations that the triple Olympic champion destroyed blood samples with a hammer.

Following a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appeal, Sun's career now rests with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But a leaked FINA doping panel report appearing to confirm Sun smashed vials of his blood could spark a war of words in Gwangju. After clashing with Mack Horton at the Rio Olympics -- when the Aussie labelled Sun a "drug cheat" over a prior ban -- expect fireworks.

- Toppling Cesar -

Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers comes into the world championships buzzing after qualifying for the 100 metres freestyle in a blistering 47.35 seconds -- almost half a second quicker than he clocked to win the 2016 Rio final.

If he can find a little extra over the first 50 metres of the men's blue riband race, Chalmers could even threaten Brazilian Cesar Cielo's 10-year-old world record of 46.91sec, although American rival Caeleb Dressel -- who scooped a remarkable seven world titles in 2017 -- won't give up his crown without a fight.

- Phelps territory for Ledecky -

American superstar Katie Ledecky has racked up an eye-popping five Olympic gold medals and 14 world titles to become the most decorated female swimmer ever with almost Michael Phelps-like numbers, and all by the age of 22.

Boasting the world records in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m free, where she is virtually unbeatable, Ledecky will be the red-hot favourite to add a fistful more in South Korea. Expect her to boost her medal haul still further and send an early message ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

- Espresso yourself -

Canadian sensation Taylor Ruck shot to fame last year by capturing a record-equalling eight Commonwealth Games medals on the Gold Coast before back that up by bagging five more at the Pan Pacific championships in Tokyo.

The 19-year-old, who peps herself up before races with a cheeky espresso, won gold at both in her pet event, the 200m free, but will face stiff competition from Australian teenager Ariarne Titmus, American Katie Ledecky and Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom. Ruck is also has an outside chance in the 100m free.

- Milak attack -

Hungary's Kristof Milak has already shown glimpses of his immense potential by bombing to the 200m butterfly title at last year's European championships, flirting with Michael Phelps's world record through the first threequarters of that final.

The 19-year-old has the raw speed and power to usurp South African pin-up Chad Le Clos as world champion and a season-leading time of 1:53.19 suggests that, if he is on his game and can cope with the pressure, the baby-faced Hungarian will be very difficult to stop in Gwangju.