FINA World Championships a huge hit as 15th edition makes history

David Cooper - Writer 18:05 22/12/2021
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  • The 15th edition of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) concluded on December 21, after an incredible week of world-class sporting competition took place at the iconic Etihad Arena on Yas Bay. To celebrate the historic moment, key officials from the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and FINA attended the championships closing press conference, ahead of the official closing ceremony which took place inside of the arena.

    The closing press conference was attended by His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Captain Husain Al-Musallam, FINA President and Brent Nowicki, FINA Executive Director. They were joined by several swimmers and high- divers who displayed the very best of aquatic talent during the FINA World Swimming Championships and World Aquatics Festival, competing in front of thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers around the world.

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    Chad Le Clos – Olympic, World and Commonwealth Games champion
    Siobhan Haughey – Women’s 200m/100m Freestyle champion in Abu Dhabi

    Yuri Kisil – Three-time World Aquatics Championships medalist
    Orlando Duque – First ever high-diver to win gold in the sport in 2013
    Molly Carlson – Four-time Junior National Champion
    Aidan Heslop – FINA High Diving Qualifier 2021 gold medallist

    The official closing press conference was held to mark the end of the FINA World Swimming Championships and paid tribute to the incredible achievements of some of the world’s best sporting stars. Over the course of the week’s exhilarating competition, fans inside the Etihad Arena witnessed several new records set, including 4 World Records.

    Siobhan Haughey 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 USA in the event’s previous edition. Haughey and the Swedish quartet earned an additional USD $50,000 for their record-setting performances.

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    As well as the newly crowned world champions, the Championships also featured a wide 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.

    At the press conference, His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: ‘‘Over the last week, Abu Dhabi has been at the centre 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 $3.2m – the highest in FINA’s history.

    ‘‘The action was broadcast to a global TV audience across 133 countries, including CCTV in China, NBC in North America, Super Sports across Africa and our host broadcasters, Abu Dhabi Sports Channel. During an exhilarating week of world-class sporting competition, we have witnessed 4 World Records being broken, with a total of 46 crowned World Champions.

    ‘‘I’d like to extend my thanks to the media. 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.

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    ‘‘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).’’

    Captain Husain Al-Musallam, FINA President said:‘‘This week, the world’s most talented swimmers lined up on the world stage to display their talent and abilities to thousands of spectators inside the Etihad Arena and of course to millions of TV viewers around the world. This led to plenty of thrilling action in the pool with four World Records being broken, making the 15th edition of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) among the finest in the event’s history.

    ‘‘This exemplifies that our sport is going in the right direction as more people around the world aspire to be the next world champion. Whether the athletes have won a medal or not, we believe every swimmer who has competed this week is indeed a winner. We understand travelling and participating in these challenging times is not easy, but I would like to express my gratitude to them for being here in Abu Dhabi and helping make this edition a resounding success.’’

    Siobhan Haughey said she and her nation can look back at the Abu Dhabi edition with great pride following some impressive performances in the pool.

    During the press conference she said: “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. 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.”

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    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. Leonov Vladimir Aleksandrovich, Minister of Sports of the Republic of Tatarstan was on stage to accept the historic handover, which was presented by His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Captain Husain Al-Musallam, FINA President.

    From December 15 – 21, Etihad Arena on Yas Bay has been the setting for one of the region’s most exciting sporting and entertainment spectacles with the 15th edition of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) and the World Aquatics Festival. Over the course of the week, more than 1,100 athletes from over 180 National Federations across all five continents competed in 57 events and for an overall prize pool of USD $3.2million, the largest prize pool ever in a FINA swimming event. Over 800 volunteers ensured the smooth running of the event throughout the week of competition.