For 28 years, FINA has been successfully hosting one of the most prestigious swimming competitions in the world, the FINA World Championships (25m). In 1993, Palma de Mallorca, Spain hosted the first-ever FINA World Championship (25m) competition where 313 athletes from 46 different National Federations participated in 16 swimming competitions for men and 16 for women.There have since been 14 FINA World Championships (25m), Hangzhou, China hosted the last edition in 2018 before the COVID-19 pandemic changed our world as we know it. Major sporting events with spectators have since returned and Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, will play host to the 15th FINA World Championship (25m) in December 2021.
For over two and a half decades, fans have enjoyed watching swimmers from every corner of the globe achieve a variety of swimming world records and titles. We have deep dived into our FINA World Championship archives to bring you the all-time greatest moments in World Championship Swimming history.
Katinka Hosszu, a competitive swimmer from Hungary, won a gold medal in both 2016 and 2018 for 100m Backstroke and 200m Backstroke, catapulting her toward being the most decorated female swimmer to date. Hosszu achieved 27 medals in total, 18 gold, 7 silver and 2 bronze.
However, she is not the only female who dominated different swimming categories for consecutive World Championship years. China’s Jingyi LE surprised the swimming world with her speed in the 50m and 100m Freestyle during the first FINA World Championship editions in 1993 and 1995. She also broke the world record in both events (24.23 in 50m, 53.01 in 100m) in 1993. LE currently features in the top-three gold medal rankings with 10 gold medals and shares this remarkable feat with Sweden’s Therese Alshmmar who has 17 medals and Ranomi Kromowidjojo from the Netherlands who has 21 medals in total.
Spanish born Mireia Belmonte and Alia Atkinson from Jamaica currently hold three world records between them:
- Mireia Belmonte: 800m Freestyle 07:59.34, 200m Butterfly 01:59.61 and 400m Individual Medley 04:18.94
- Alia Atkinson: 50m Breaststroke 28.56, 100m Breaststroke 01:02.36
The two oldest women’s world records (2009) that remain unbeaten are:
- 200m Breaststroke (2:14.57), which currently belongs to Rebecca Soni from the USA
- 50m Butterfly (24.38), which is held by the Sweden's Alshammar
While talking about world records, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Netherlands’ dominance of the Freestyle Relay at the FINA World Championships freestyle where they remain unbeaten. The country currently holds three world records:
- 4x50m 01:32.50 (2020)
- 4x100m 03:26.53 (2014)
- 4x200m 07:32.85 (2014)
The USA, too, hold multiple women’s Medley Relay world records:
- 4x50m 01:42.38 (2018)
- 4x100m 03:44.52 (2020)
MEN'S WORLD RECORDS
Male swimmers have also accomplished multiple historical aquatic achievements. One of the most recent was when America’s Caeleb Dressel broke the 50m Freestyle world record twice in just 11 months (20 Dec 2019 – 20.24 and 21 Nov 2020 – 22.16).
Similarly, Australia’s Grant Hackett broke the 800m Freestyle world record twice, first in 2001 (7:25.28) and the second in 2008 (7:23.42). Breaking these two records has helped keep Hackett in first and second position in the men’s 800m Freestyle rankings in the FINA Hall of Fame.
Great Britain has also consistently made FINA World Championship history, namely when James Hickman year-on-year won five medals in the 200m Butterfly (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2004).
In 2004, 2006 and 2008 fans got to enjoy winnings of epic proportions when Russian swimmer Yuri Prilukov proved himself to be the unbeatable champion in both 400m Freestyle and 1500m Freestyle categories.
Special mention goes to 12-time Olympic medallist, Ryan Lochte, who won in three different categories (100m Medley, 200m Medley and 400m Medley) during three consecutive FINA World Championships (2006, 2008 and 2010). As a result, the American currently possesses the highest number of medals, boasting 38 in total (21 gold, 10 silver and 7 bronze).
The next stop is Abu Dhabi for the 15th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) where international swimmers will battle it out for world titles between 16-21 December. After a short break due to COVID-19, there is sure to be plenty of excitement which will hopefully make it one of the most fast-paced World Championships in FINA history. Stay tuned!