ABU DHABI: The 15th edition of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) concluded on Tuesday, after a five-day competition which had witnessed 46 world champions crowned and four world records broken at the Etihad Arena on Yas Bay.
Germany’s Florian Wellbrock became the latest swimmer to set a new world record after triumphing in the men’s 1,500m freestyle on the last night of action.
Officials from organizers Abu Dhabi Sports Council and FINA attended the championships’ closing press conference, ahead of the closing ceremony which took place inside the arena. They included Aref Al-Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council; Husain Al-Musallam, FINA president; and Brent Nowicki, FINA executive director.
The officials were joined by several swimmers and high-divers , including Chad Le Clos (Olympic, world and Commonwealth Games champion) and Siobhan Haughey (women’s 200m/100m freestyle champion in Abu Dhabi).
Haughey had stormed to a world record of 1:50.31 in the women’s 200m freestyle, while Sweden equalled the 4x50m medley relay world record set by the US in the event’s previous edition. Haughey and the Swedish quartet earned an additional $50,000 for their record-setting performances.
As well as the newly crowned world champions, the championships also featured an array of talented swimmers from across the world, including Alaa Maso, the lone member of the FINA Refugee Team, who fled his home nation Syria to pursue his swimming ambitions.
“Over the last week, Abu Dhabi has been at the center of the swimming global sphere, with more than 1,100 athletes from over 183 countries competing not only in the swimming pool, but also across high-diving and the open water swimming, for a prize purse of $3.2 million — the highest in FINA’s history,” said Al-Awani.
He also highlighted that the tournament was broadcast to a global TV audience across 133 countries, including CCTV in China, NBC in North America, Super Sports across Africa and local host broadcasters, Abu Dhabi Sports Channel.
“I’d like to extend my thanks to the media,” he said. “Over the past week, we have hosted 160 accredited media to this world-class venue. I hope you have enjoyed your time here at Etihad Arena. I would also like to thank Captain Husain, Taha Alkushari and our friends at FINA, and for all the participating countries and athletes.”
Al-Awani added: “We are also sending our best wishes to the 2022 organizing committee in Kazan, Russia, as they embark on their journey to delivering the next short course world championships (25m).”
Haughey said she and her nation can look back at the Abu Dhabi edition with pride following some impressive performances in the pool.
“It was amazing to know that I was the first person from Hong Kong, China to win a world championship and break a world record,” she said. “I’m sure in the future there will be a lot of up-and-coming swimmers who can achieve the same thing, too. Since day one, when I broke the world record, the Hong Kong, China team has been doing really well and made a lot of finals and it’s been a great week for the whole country.”
Aidan Heslop of Great Britain was among the winners at the FINA high diving qualifier, producing the hardest dive ever attempted to triumph in the final round of the event.
The 19-year-old, who received sevens from the judges to secure a winning score of 436.90 points, reflected on his triumph by saying: “You do have to be a little bit crazy for it, but we take some calculated risks on what we’re doing and don’t do anything silly. We really use out 10m diving that we started off with and adapt to these heights.”
After the press conference the official closing ceremony took place inside the Etihad Arena, for the official handing over of the next FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), which is set to take place in Kazan, Russia in 2022.