2002 World short course championships review

The 6th world short course championships came to a close at the weekend. Despite a lack of mainstream media coverage in the UK, the meet produced some exciting and fast swimming. We take a look back over the 5 days of competition to pick our highlights and asses the British performance.

race of the meet

There was plenty of good racing in Moscow, despite the absence of some of swimming’s big names, but the most exciting race had to be the final of the men’s 100 freestyle. It was always likely to be exciting from the moment that Alexandr Popov withdrew, leaving the race wide open. Surprise 50m winner Jose Martin Meolans of Argentina led for more than 99m of the race but was overhauled in the last stroke by a superb finishing burst from Australia’s Ashley Callus, who recorded an impressive time of 46.99s. Racing doesn’t get much better than this.

swim of the meet

With seven world records, there were plenty of contenders for the swim of the meet. However, Aaron Peirsol’s new mark in the 200 back stood out as particularly impressive, being the only men’s individual record set in the meet. His finals swim was simply awesome, demolishing an impressive field by almost 2 seconds. It was unfortunate that former world record holder Matt Welsh wasn’t in the race, as this may have resulted in an even faster swim, but this shouldn’t take away from Peirsol’s achievement. If, as he says, he still needs to improve his starts, turns and technique, the rest of the backstroke swimming world will have some serious work to do to prevent him winning all major titles for some considerable time.

swimmer of the meet

With two world records, combined with two gold and a silver medal and some outstanding relay swims, without question the swimmer of the meet has to be Sweden’s Emma Igelstrom. Not only did she become the first woman under 30 seconds for the 50 breastroke, but also removed the great Penny Heyns’ 100m world record with breastroke swimming of the highest quality.

highlight of the meet

The best moment of the meet came in the final session at the end of the women’s 200 freestyle; the race lacked any of the really big names, but Lindsay Benko of the US stepped up to break Claudia Poll’s world record. The highlight was the look of absolute astonishment and then elation on Lindsay’s face as she realised what she had achieved. This is what sport should be about.

the British performance

It initially seemed strange to be sending a team of only four swimmers to a world championship, but with the commonwealth trials imminent, it was always going to be difficult to enter a full team. Nonetheless, the decision to restrict entry to those likely to win medals paid off, with the team winning 1 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze medals, James Hickman’s 4th consecutive world title over 200m butterfly being a particular highlight. Zoë Baker picked up bronze in the 50 breastroke behind that new world record, whilst Alison Sheppard won silver and bronze. Mark Foster may have been disappointed to surrender his titles in winning silver and bronze, but it was overall an excellent performance from a select team.

British swimmer of the meet

With only four swimmers to choose from, this ought to be an easy decision, but the British performance was very encouraging. Despite medals form every member of the team, the best British performance for me came from Alison Sheppard. She swam PB’s in every event, setting Scottish records with virtually every swim and two new British records in the 100m IM. To top it all off, Alison won the silver in her number one event, the 50 freestyle, only narrowly losing out to world record holder Therese Alshammer, despite having to re-swim the final, but also picked up a surprise and thoroughly deserved bronze in the 100m IM. A super performance from the queen of Scottish swimming.

Top British Results:
  • Gold: James Hickman, 200m Butterfly
  • Silver: Alison Sheppard 50m Freestyle; Mark Foster 50m Freestyle
  • Bronze: Alison Sheppard 100m IM; Zoe Baker 50m Breastroke; Mark Foster 50m Butterfly