By Sharon Robb
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, December 16, 2021–In a wild start to the 15th FINA Short Course World Championships at Etihad Arena, a world record was broken, a relay finish tied for gold and several swimmers were disqualified including world record holder Alia Atkinson.
South Florida Aquatic Club’s five-time Jamaican Olympian was disqualified in the 50-meter breaststroke semifinals. Atkinson, 33, the top seed and defending champion in the event, was disqualified for a downward dolphin kick before her first place finish in 29.55. Atkinson had won gold in the event in 2018 in China and still holds the world record of 28.56.
In an unprecedented call, thirteen other swimmers were disqualified in the women’s 50 breaststroke and men’s 100 breaststroke prelims. According to meet officials, all disqualifications were called by underwater cameras and not one specific lane judge.
Atkinson has the 100-meter breaststroke left to swim on Sunday with opening heats.
SOFLO teammate Julio Horrego, 23, representing Honduras, was 25th overall in the 100-meter breaststroke heats in 58.80 and fell short of making the semifinal round.
In championship final action:
Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong took down the world record and course record in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:50.31. Her opening split was 53.81. She earned $50,000 in world record bonus money in addition to $10,000 for first place. The previous record was 1:50.43, set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom in 2017.
Felix Auboeck of Austria won the 400-meter freestyle in a national record 3:35.90. It was his first gold medal in the event.
Italy’s Alberto Razzetti won the 200-meter butterfly in 1:49.06 ahead of Switzerland’s Noe Ponti in 1:49.81 and Olympic gold medalist Chad le Clos of South Africa in 1:49.84.
Canadian Tess Cieplucha won the 400-meter individual medley in 4:25.55. It was her first world title in the event. American Melanie Margalis of St. Petersburg took the bronze in 4:26.63.
In an exciting race, Daiya Seto of Japan won the 200-meter individual medley in 1:51.15 followed by American Carson Foster in 1:51.35 and Italian Alberto Razzetti in 1:51.54.
In another exciting race, the U.S. and Canada tied for gold in the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle rely in 3:28.52. Sweden took bronze in 3:28.80. The Canadian foursome of Kayla Sanchez, Margaret MacNeil, Rebecca Smith and Katherine Savard broke the national record. The U.S. relay members were Kate Douglass, Claire Curzan, Katherine Berkoff and Abbey Weitzeil.
Russia (Kliment Kolesnikov, Andrei Minakov, Vladislav Grinev and Aleksandr Shchegolev) won the men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay in 3:03.45. Italy was second in 3:03.61 and U.S. (Ryanb Held, Hunter Tapp, Shaine Casas, Zach Apple) was third in 3:05.42.
The five-day meet continues Friday with the pool competition and ends Tuesday, Dec. 21.
FINA is offering a prize money pool of $2.8 million, a 50 percent increase in prize money for individual swimmers. There is also be a $50,000 bonus for any swimmer who breaks a world record.
The top eight individual payoffs for first through eighth place are $10,000, $8,000, $7,000, $6,000, $5,000, $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000.
There are 943 swimmers from 183 countries competing. The swimming is part of the Aquatics Festival which includes open water swimming, high diving and diving team competition.
Final sessions of the pool swimming will be streamed on NBC Sports’ Olympic Channel. Eurovision Sport’s All Aquatics will air the heats.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com