Wellbrock Breaks World Record; FGC’s Sid Cassidy Honored At FINA Short Course World Championships

By Sharon Robb
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, December 21, 2021–The final day of the 15th FINA Short Course World Championships ended with the fourth world record of the meet Tuesday at Etihad Arena.

Germany’s Florian Wellbrock broke the world record in the 1500-meter freestyle in 14:06.88. Wellbrock pulled away from the field at the midway mark. The previous record was 14:08.06 set in 2015 by Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri, who was fourth in Tuesday’s race in 14:21.00. Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia was second in 14:10.94 and the Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk was third in 14:11.47.

Three other world records were set earlier in the week. Siobhan Haughey broke the 200-meter freestyle world record in 1:50.43. Margaret MacNeil broke the world record in the 50-meter backstroke and Sweden equaled the 4×50-meter medley relay world record.

The three individual swimmers and four relay swimmers earned an additional $50,000 in addition to their $10,000 first place prize money.

In addition, five world junior records and 11 meet records were broken. Swimmers from 28 countries earned at least one medal, the most countries ever awarded at a short course world championship.

“I want to thank everyone in the aquatics family, in particular the incredible athletes, for ending this challenging year with so many incredible performances during this historic FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi,” said President Captain Husain Al-Musallam.

“The world-class Etihad Arena and the beautiful shores of Yas Island have provided the ultimate environment for athletes to set world and national records and provide family-friendly entertainment for thousands of passionate swimming fans.”

In local short course world championship news, St. Andrew’s Aquatics Director and head coach Sid Cassidy was awarded the first Dennis Miller Award during the FINA Gala as an outstanding open water organizer.

In other championship final action:

Italy’s Alessandro Miressi held on to win the 100-meter freestyle in a national record 45.57 just ahead of American Ryan Held in 45.63.

American Emily Escobedo won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:17.85, 3/100ths ahead of Evgeniia Chikunova of the Russian Swimming Federation. It was only the second individual gold medal of the meet for the U.S. women.

In another close race, Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki surged in the final 50 to win the 200-meter backstroke in 1:48.68 ahead of American Shaine Casas in 1:48.81.

Canadian Maggie MacNeil won the 100-meter butterfly in 55.04. American Claire Curzan broke the world junior record in 55.39 and was third.

American Nic Fink won the 50-meter breaststroke in 25.53.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won the 50-meter freestyle in a meet record 23.08.

The U.S. women won the 4×50-meter freestyle relay in 1:34.22 just ahead of Sweden in 1:34.54 with Abbey Weitzeil, Claire Curzan, Katharine Berkoff and Kate Douglass.

Italy won the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay in a meet record 3:19.76 ahead of the U.S. with swimmers Lorenzo Mora, Nicolo Martinenghi, Matteo Rivolta and Alessandro Miressi.

FINA paid out $2.8 million in prize money, a 50 percent increase in prize money for individual swimmers. There was also a $50,000 bonus given to any swimmer who breaks a world record.

The top eight individual payoffs for first through eighth place were $10,000, $8,000, $7,000, $6,000, $5,000, $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000.

There were 943 swimmers from 183 countries competing. The 16th FINA World Swimming Championships will be held Dec. 17-22 , 2022 at the Aquatics Palace in Kazan, Russia.

FINA and Myrtha Pools also announced the renewal of their long term partnership that will see Myrtha continue as one of FINA’s Official Partners for the next four years through 2025.

FINA also confirmed the meet had 37 positive COVID-19 cases including 15 athletes. Seven nations including Singapore and Nigeria were also forced to withdraw because of the restrictions.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Americans Fink, White Win Gold; SOFLO’s Atkinson Swims Final Event At FINA Short Course World Championships

By Sharon Robb
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, December 18, 2021–The U.S. team rebounded with two gold medals Saturday at the 15th FINA Short Course World Championships at Etihad Arena.

Nic Fink, in fourth place with a lap to go, rallied to win the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:02.28 to win his first gold medal of the meet and second overall. He took bronze in the 100 breaststroke. He was just 0.08 seconds off his American record he set while competing in the International Swimming League.

U.S. teammate Rhyan White won the 200-meter backstroke in 2:01.58. White and Canadian Kylie Masse took turns in the lead before White came on with a 30.86 split on the last lap.

South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson, 33, will go after her final chance at a medal in her final career meet when she competes in the 100-meter breaststroke heats. The five-time Jamaican Olympian was disqualified in the 50-meter breaststroke semifinals. SOFLO teammate Julio Horrego, representing Honduras, has the 50-meter breaststroke on Monday.

In championship final action:

Hong Kong’s Siobahn Haughey won her second gold medal of the meet, winning the 100-meter freestyle in a meet record 50.98. She also won the 200 freestyle earlier in the meet in world record time.

Italy’s Matteo Rivolta won the 100-meter butterfly in 48.87 ahead of South African Chad le Closs in 49.04.

With American Katie Grimes out of the race because of COVID-19 protocols, China’s Li Bingjie won the 800-meter freestyle in a meet record 8:02.90.

The Netherlands won the mixed medley 4×50-meter relay in a meet record 1:36.20 ahead of the U.S., second in 1:37.04, with relay members Kira Toussaint, Arno Kamminga, Thom de Boer and Ranomi Kromowidjojo.

Also on Saturday, Olympic teammates Lydia Jacoby and Katie Grimes withdrew from the meet due to COVID-19 protocols.

Jacoby, the Alaskan who won the 100-meter breaststroke in Tokyo, was the only individual U.S. Olympic gold medalist entered in short course worlds. Grimes, the youngest athlete on the U.S. Olympic team at age 15, was fourth in the 800-meter freestyle in Tokyo.

The five-day meet continues Sunday with the pool competition and ends Tuesday.

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 sha11cats@aol.com

Caeleb Dressel, Bobby Finke, Hali Flickinger, Nic Fink Win Spots On U.S. Team; Josh Zuchowski Top FGC Finisher On Day Five Of Olympic Trials

By Sharon Robb
OMAHA, Neb., June 17, 2021—Caeleb Dressel of the Gator Swim Club, the next big Olympic star in men’s swimming, qualified for his second Olympics Thursday night at the U.S. Olympic Trials at CHI Health Center.

Dressel, 24, a Clay High School and Bolles Club alum won the glamour event 100-meter freestyle in a U.S. Open and pool record 47.39, second fastest time in the world this year. He was .60 off the blocks and 22.46 after the opening 50 meters.

Dressel, a two time world champion and Olympic gold medalist, is setting himself up nicely for the Tokyo Olympics where he could potentially win seven medals in one Olympics following in the footsteps of Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi.

“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” Dressel said. “I’m excited to get the job done and move forward. It certainly doesn’t get any easier. That hurt real bad but I’m happy with it. My goal was to get my hand on the wall first here so I got the job done.

“You can’t win five, six or seven medals if you don’t qualify for the events. I’m focused on qualifying right now.”

A giant picture of Dressel is on the outside of the downtown arena where the trials are being held.

“All the fluff that comes with it, your name on the building, is cool,” Dressel said. “But it adds a little bit different pressure to it.”

Joining Dressel on the 4×100 relay will be Zach Apple of Mission Viejo, who finished second in 47.72, Blake Pieroni third in 48.16 and newcomer Brooks Curry, 20, of LSU Tigers in 48.19. The top four automatically qualify for the relay.

In the new Olympic men’s event 800-meter freestyle, Bobby Finke, 21, of Clearwater left no doubt controlling the race and winning in 7:48.22 to make his first Olympic team. Michael Brinegar, 21, whose mom Jennifer made the Olympic team 45 years ago, competing in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, came on in the last 50 to surge ahead of Ross Dant to finish second in 7:49.94.

“I don’t even know how this feels to be an Olympian, I can’t come to terms with it yet,” Finke said. “I am so thankful for my friends and my family. This distance is a sprint and I don’t like sprints. It is what it is and it’s part of the program now.”

In a close men’s 200-meter breaststroke, Nic Fink, 27, of Athens Bulldogs won in a best time 2:07.55. Fink has been 17th and seventh in his last two Olympic Trials. Club teammate Andrew Wilson was second in 2:08.32.

“It’s something I can’t really describe,” Fink said. “Relief is only the beginning of what I’m feeling right now. It’s a long journey to come here. This is such an incredible meet with high ups and low downs. I’ve had so much support and help. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and to come back after getting third in the 100.”

In the women’s 200-meter butterfly, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger, 26, won in a best time 2:05.85, a U.S. Open and pool record. She turned on the jets and went 33.1 in the final stretch. She’s joined on the Olympic team by 19-year-old Regan Smith, already on the team in the 100 backstroke. They are the second and fourth fastest times in the world this year.

“I was just having so much fun,” Flickinger said. “Regan and I race each other all the time. It’s always fun to be there with her. We had a race plan in mind and all I wanted to do was execute it for him (her coach Bob Bowman).”

In one of the biggest surprises of the Trials, defending Olympic and world champion Simone Manuel failed to make it out of the 100-meter freestyle semifinals, the event she won a gold medal in at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Manuel was out of the pool for three weeks in April for various reasons including the Black Life Matters movement and pandemic. She finished in 54.17 for ninth, 2/100ths of a second from the finals. Manuel has one more chance to qualify in the 50.

World record holder Ryan Lochte, 36, looking to make his fifth Olympics team, was second fastest qualifier in the 200-meter individual medley in 1:58.48 behind Michael Andrew in 1:56.25 in prelims. He was third in his semifinal heat in 1:58.65 and qualified sixth for Friday’s final. Lochte scratched from the 200-meter backstroke to focus on the 200 IM.

“I know I have a faster swim in me 100 percent,” Lochte said after his semifinal race. “There’s no such thing as perfect races. There’s a lot I have to improve on, especially that race. That was just not a good one. I messed up in a lot of places. I’ll be better.”

Josh Zuchowski, 17, of FAST swims was 24th in the 200-meter backstroke in 2:01.53, off his qualifying time of 2:00.76.

Erika Pelaez, 14, of Eagle Aquatics was 38th in the 100-meter freestyle in 56.19, off her best of 55.51. She has the 50 freestyle left to swim.

Julia Podkoscielny, 16, of Pine Crest Swimming swims Friday in the 200 backstroke.

The top two finishers of most events will most likely become 2021 US Olympians. Relay only spots go to places 3-6 (though not completely guaranteed for 6th place) of 100- and 200-meter freestyle events. The maximum roster size for Team USA is 26 men and 26 women.

All races 200 meters or shorter will have three stages at Trials: a prelim in the morning, followed by a semifinal that evening. The final of the top-8 qualifier will take place on the following night.

Friday’s events are: (Morning Session), women’s 800 freestyle prelims, men’s 100 butterfly prelims, women’s 200 backstroke prelims; (Evening session) women’s 200 breaststroke final, men’s 200 backstroke final, women’s 200 backstroke semifinal, men’s 200 IM final, women’s 100 freestyle final, men’s 100 butterfly semifinal.

Daily finals coverage will be broadcast across NBC channels. Along with live finals coverage, 24 hours of preliminaries will be available on NBCOlympics.com and NBC Sports App.

For prelims, today through June 19, 11 a.m. on NBC Stream and 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN. For finals, today through June 16 on NBC at 8 p.m., June 17 NBC at 10 p.m. and NBCSN at 8 p.m., June 18-19 NBC at 9 p.m. and June 20 NBC at 8:15 p.m. All times are Eastern Standard Time for South Florida.


200-meter butterfly: 1. Hali Flickinger, Sun Devils 2:05.85, 2. Regan Smith, RIPT 2:06.99, 3. Charlotte Hook, TAC Titans 2:07.92.

800-meter freestyle: 1. Bobby Finke, St. Petersburg Aquatics 7:48.22, 2. Michael Brinegar, Mission Viejo 7:49.94, 3. Ross Dant, N.C. State 7:50.66.

200-meter breaststroke: 1. Nic Fink, Athens Bulldogs 2:07.55, 2. Andrew Wilson, Athens Bulldogs 2:08.32, 3. Will Lincon, Texas Longhorns 2:08.50.

100-meter freestyle: 1. Caeleb Dressel, Gator Swim Club 47.39, 2. Zach Apple, MVN 47.72, 3. Blake Pieroni, SAND 48.16.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com