The Short Course FINA World Swimming Championships offered great racing by the Team USA contingent. Star swimmers rose to the occasion and claimed numerous medals against the worlds best.
Here are three takeaways from the championships last week heading into an elite-swimming filled year-and-a-half.
Experience and Momentum Heading Towards Summer
Team USA gained valuable momentum heading into the long course championships this summer in South Korea. Despite being a slightly different discipline, any racing against the words best build confidence a few months from another FINA Championships and just over a year from the Olympics.
18 team members didn’t compete at the championships in Budapest two summers ago. Few on the roster were in their first ever international meet, the short course championships opened opportunities to claim medals for the first time.
A prime example, former Texas A&M Aggie Lisa Bratton, in her first major FINA Championships, claimed a gold medal in the 200 backstroke. She joins an already loaded group of American backstrokers including Kathleen Baker and Reagan Smith who will be in contention to make the Olympic team. This win creates a massive confidence boost.
Team USA Claims FINA Trophy
In its second-best medal performance since the 2004 FINA Championships in Indianapolis, Team USA claimed the FINA Trophy with 1,099 points. The dominant performance, lead by an ever uprising group of recently turned professionals, won a total of 17 gold medals over the course of the week, nine coming in the form of a relay.
The trophy-winning effort came with numerous record being broken. 24 American record fell, featuring many individual swims. Five world records, all as relays, were claimed by Americans in Hangzhou.
In such an individual sport, winning a trophy might seem like a small accomplishment. For medal winners, it’s a display of a great team effort. More importantly, the non-medal winners have something to call their own, offering a sense of pride following the meet.
Team USA has controlled the rights to the trophy, at least since the 2004 Championships. This performance continues to establish the team’s dominance and allows the goals to be set on how much they win by and less on actually winning the trophy.
New Leaders Have Risen
As the transition of the staple leaders on the national team continues, the FINA Championships may give a bit of clarity in terms of who could grow into that role. While leaders don’t always need to be the teams best, those with a win at all costs attitude surely help their efforts.
For the men, Caeleb Dressel claimed a meet-leading nine medals over the course of the week. His performance included a touch-out victory over Russia’s Vladimir Morozov on the final day. Without Nathan Adrian at the FINA Championships, Dressel had an opportunity to set up.
On the women’s side, two swimmers performances stood out. There’s no surprise that Kelsi Dahlia would be in the mix. Tieing Dressel with nine medals, Dahlia is one of the more experienced among the championship team at this point. Her value stretches beyond just the performance in the pool.
Additionally, former Georgia Bulldog Olivia Smoliga had her breakout performance, winning eight gold medals. Her breakout performance, coupled with Olympic experience, makes her a prime candidate to continue on as a staple of the roster.
Heading towards the Olympic next summer, establishing leaders in and out of the pool is a necessity. The stress and pressure of that type of meet takes experience, something only gained through racing the worlds best frequently.