Miami Swimmer Annika Saarnak to Represent Estonia at World Championships

CORAL GABLES, Florida, June 19. UNIVERSITY of Miami swimmer Annika Saarnak has qualified for the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome taking place July 19 – August 2. Saarnak becomes the first UM swimmer for third-year swimming head coach Christie Shefchunas to compete at the biennial World Championships.

Saarnak joins UM divers Brittany Viola (United States) and Reuben Ross (Canada) on the list of Hurricanes swimming and diving performers set to represent their home countries during this year's World Championships event.

A native of Puhaleda, Estonia, Saarnak will represent her home country in three events: 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle and 4×100 freestyle relay. She just completed her sophomore season for the Hurricanes, and served as one of the top performers on the squad during the 2008-09 campaign.

"Annika worked so hard this year and I'm so proud that she got the qualifying time," expressed head swimming coach Christie Shefchunas. "I'm so excited for her that she's able to represent Estonia at the World Championships."

As a sophomore, Saarnak posted 19 of the Hurricanes' Top 10 season times in the 50-, 100-, 200- and 500 yard freestyle events. She held the top spot in each of the 50-, 100- and 200 freestyle events, respectively.

Saarnak was also a part of 16 of Miami's Top 10 season-best performances in the 200-, 400- and 800 yard freestyle relays. Alongside teammates Britta Boesing, Lauren Jacoby and Ryann Labreche, she helped to establish a new school record for the Hurricanes 800 free relay squad during the Atlantic Coast Conference Swimming & Diving Championships in College Park, Md.

She also is a part of the school-record holding 400 medley relay team, joining Boesing, Dana Hatic and Cori Lallier in the achievement, also set during this past season's ACC Championships.

"This is a huge opportunity for Annika as she'll be racing against the best swimmers in the world, and it will give her confidence that she can be a part of the Estonian Olympic team in 2012," continued Shefchunas.

The FINA World Championships or "World Aquatics Championships" are the World Championships for aquatic sports: diving, swimming, open water swimming, synchronized swimming and water polo. The Championships are run by FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation). In the pool, swimming events are contested in a 50-meter, or "long course" pool.

The event was first held in 1973, and is now held every two years. From 1978-1998, the World Championships were held every four years, in the even years between Summer Olympic years. From 2001 on, the World Championships has been held every two years, in the off years.

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