Dan Wiffen On Bobby Finke’s Ripple Effect And Sun Yang’s World Record As More History Beckons

Dan Wiffen Swim Open
Dan Wiffen: Photo Courtesy: Swim Ireland

Dan Wiffen has torn up the history books and propelled himself to the top table of distance swimming over the past year.

The 21-year-old delivered a stunning 1500 free of 14:34.91 at the Swim Open Stockholm last month to become the fourth-fastest man in history.

Days later Olympic bronze medallist Florian Wellbrock clipped 0.02secs from Wiffen’s time to go 14:34.89 at the Berlin Open.

It all adds up to a battle of the heavyweights  at the World Championships where five of the seven fastest men in history will take to the water in Fukuoka.

Joining Wellbrock and Wiffen are Gregorio Paltrinieri – who set a European record of 14:32.80 en-route to the world title in Budapest last year and ranks second all-time – Mykhailo Romanchuk with his 14:36.10 winning time at the 2022 Europeans and Olympic champion Bobby Finke who went 14:36.70 for silver in Budapest.

It’s a line-up of luminaries and one that Wiffen takes his place amongst.

He told Swimming World:

“I feel like I have only just joined the field.

“Everybody is pretty nice: I guess there’s rivalry but nobody’s going at each other (in the call room) we’re saying good luck.

“Just mutual respect.”


Grant Hackett: Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

The pool programme is being held at the Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall A, where Grant Hackett went 14:34.56 for a world record that stood for 10 years and two days before Sun Yang sliced 0.41 for a new mark of 14:34.14 at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai.

The banned Chinese athlete subsequently lowered it to 14:31.02 at London 2012, a mark that stands today, 1.78 seconds ahead of Paltrinieri.

Wiffen was 17 days old when Hackett sliced over seven seconds from fellow Australian Kieren Perkins’ WR from the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

The Irishman – coached by Andi Manley at Loughborough – names Hackett and Mack Horton – the man who locked him out of the 400 free podium at the 2022 Commonwealth Games by one place and 0.13 – as swimmers he’s looked up to.

Among his distance contemporaries, he points to Paltrinieri, the 2016 Olympic gold medallist and three-time world champion in the longest race in the pool.

He said:

“In terms of the distance swimmers, I think everyone looks up to Greg.

“He is about 28. He’s been on top for so long. He won the 1500 in 2016 and was in the final in 2012 where he came fifth.

“I feel like he has been a name in the distance freestyle for so long that I think that’s why he’s well known and everyone knows he’s fast.”

Finke And His Ripple Effect

Finke shook things up in Tokyo when he won gold following a final 50 of 25.78, just 0.10 outside Sun’s WR split.

It was also just 0.01 slower than Paul Biedermann’s closing lap when he eclipsed Ian Thorpe’s iconic 400 free mark at the super-suited 2009 worlds and 0.08 adrift of the German’s last lap en-route to the 200 WR that stands today.

That last-lap blast by the American has changed the approach of the rest of the field, says Wiffen.

“Yes, 100%. I remember watching the final when Greg went 32.8 at world champs last year. I was in the crowd because I just missed the final, I came ninth.

“I was watching and it seems like to beat Bobby the way Greg did it, he just went out fast and nobody else could hold it.

“Everybody knows he is going to be there at the last 50 but I feel like people just want to like (go) ‘oh maybe he’s not going to be there’ in their head so they wait until the last 50 and he’s gone anyway.

“I feel like people are changing their approach now to be faster on the last 50, definitely.”


Gregorio Paltrinieri: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Paltrinieri won from lane one at the Duna Arena last year with Finke, Wellbrock and Romanchuk in the centre lanes.

The Italian built up a six-second lead with Finke and Wellbrock going back and forth in the battle for silver in the latter stages with the former second in an American record of 14:36.70, 0.24 ahead of the German.

Tactics play their part in the longer races, swimmers aware of what others are doing and responding to that.

“100%. You’ve got to know your own limits I guess. People probably didn’t want to go out with Greg because of how fast he was going: 3secs under world record splits and not many people can go that in that race.

“Looking at the race he was so far in front but then they were still catching him in the end if you know what I mean.

“You are constantly watching everybody in the race. I can talk about my swim from Stockholm, I was against Misha Romanchuk in the race.

“I was watching him the whole way to make sure he wasn’t going to come back on me so I guess you are constantly looking around but trying to not put yourself out of streamline so it doesn’t affect you.”

Studying Sun Yang

One man who won’t be in Fukuoka is Sun, the Chinese athlete still serving a four-year and three-month ban stemming from an out-of-competition test in September 2018 during which a vial of his blood was smashed with a hammer by a member of his team.

Sun will be free to compete in June 2024 – shortly before the Paris Olympics – although his intentions aren’t yet known.

The Chinese nationals are running at the moment so should that be the same in 2024, it may well come down to a selection policy that would allow him to still be called up.

Wiffen never raced Sun and it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever meet in a pool even if the three-time Olympic champion returns given his distance days are behind him.


Sun Yang – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

He has though studied the 2012 world record performance, trying to pick apart Sun’s stroke.

“(It was) very long, he got really good distance with his stroke. He takes something like 28/29 strokes and I am taking 36 so he’s got more power I guess but he is coming from a 400/200 background where I am just 1500 at the moment.

“I feel like his push-offs off the wall were like no fly kicks but he was still getting a lot of distance.

“The only thing I didn’t like was his breathing off the walls but a lot of distance swimmers do double breathe off the turns and I think that’s probably a bad habit to have maybe.”

He paused for a second and smiled: “It’s a world record so it doesn’t really matter!”

Paltrinieri was 2.81 inside Sun’s WR at 1400 in Budapest but his final 100 was 4.59secs slower.

The Chinese split 27.81/25.68 in London for a 53.49 final 100, exactly three seconds swifter than Wiffen in Stockholm.

Wiffen said:

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to come back 53 point. The only person who I think could do that would be Bobby Finke – in terms of coming back that fast.

“I‘m not going to lie, I think you just have to hold a pace that’s way under the WR so you’ve got that leeway on the last 100 so you probably need to be three seconds faster than him going into the last 100.”

More History Beckons For Wiffen

Wiffen has rewritten the Irish record books time and again over the last year.

No sooner has the ink dried on a new entry, it has to be crossed out and another added.

As well as his shuddering 1500 in Stockholm, he went 3:44.35 in the 400 and 7:44.45 in the 800.

In December he became the first Irish swimmer to set a European record when he went 7:25.96 in the 800 in the short-course pool in which he holds a further three Irish marks (400, 1500 and 400IM).

In Birmingham he became the first able-bodied swimmer from Northern Ireland to win a Commonwealth swimming medal with silver in the 1500.

Dan Wiffen

Dan Wiffen: Photo Courtesy: Team Ireland

Now he stands on the brink of more history. Should he win a medal in Fukuoka, Wiffen would become the first Irish swimmer to stand on a World Championship podium.

He’s also looking to the 1500 world record, his immediate reaction in Stockholm one of shock for 10 seconds before a twinge of regret he hadn’t gone quicker.

He said:

“I feel like I knew that time was a stepping stone of what I want to achieve and I think I am looking forward to what I am going to go in the summer because I feel like it could be quite fast.

“I’m also looking forward to the race at world champs because I like racing – I don’t care about the time a lot of the time, I just like having a good race.

“I don’t think the race will come down to who is the fittest – I think it’ll probably come down to who is the most mentally strong in the race.

“Because I think it’s going to be like four or five guys in one pack going at the same time. Or maybe three of us or whatever.

“So I think it’s going to be who is going to be strong enough to make a move and keep with it.”

He added:

“My goal was to make (the 2021 Olympics) and then set the next goal of each year making a different stepping stone towards an Olympic medal. This one is just gaining more experience going into Paris.

“I’m hoping I’m going to be on that top podium but if I am on the silver or bronze step I am also happy because it’s the first Irish person ever so either way I am happy!”

Wiffen will head to Turkey for a training camp in Gloria and will compete at the Sette Colli before heading to Fukuoka.

Before that though are university exams with Wiffen completing the second year of his Computer Studies course.

Something that’s churning up far more nerves than the prospect of going head-to-head with some swimming greats in July.

He said:

“I like going to university but I hate exams. I think they put too much pressure on what I have to focus on: I just want to be focusing on swimming constantly (instead of) going to my lectures to learn.

“But then I have got these exams at the end of the term which I have got to actually on focus to make sure I pass them. Maybe it does distract me from swimming but maybe it’s also a good thing.”









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Martin J Mc Gann
4 months ago

And watch out for the dark horse twin Nathan. Now training with Dan daily, pushing each other to faster results