European Championships: Arno Kamminga On Joining “Untouchable” Peaty In The 57 Club

ROTTERDAM - Arno Kamminga tijdens de 200 meter schoolslag in de finales tijdens de Rotterdam Qualification Meet waar gestreden wordt om een ticket voor de Olympische Spelen van Tokio. ANP ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN
Photo Courtesy: ANP, Robin van Lonkhuizen

European Championships: Arno Kamminga On Joining “Untouchable” Peaty In The 57 Club

“In Gwangju I was looking at Peaty like he was way out of reach so I was more like – how the hell do you swim 56? I’m still thinking how the hell can you swim 56?

“But back then he was really out of reach, untouchable, and of course he is still way ahead of me but now I have a good go and I know I am almost within a second.

“I just keep on chipping, keep on chipping and it’s going to be fun.”

It was an early start on Friday 30 April for Arno Kamminga who got up at 5am before setting off half-an-hour later for Eindhoven to compete at the Netherlands Team Time Trials.

The drive took 90 minutes and it was straight into warm-up for the 100 breaststroke where he lowered his PB and national record by 0.01 to 58.42.

The three-time European short-course champion split 27.31/31.11 and described his first 50 as “spot on” but with improvements to be made on the second length, he knew he could lower that time even further although the prospect of going through the 58-second barrier wasn’t on his mind – even fleetingly.

Come the final though and that’s exactly what happened as Kamminga became only the second man in the sub-58 club when he stopped the clock at 57.90secs.

With that he joined Olympic champion Adam Peaty, six years after the Briton first went 57.92 in April 2015.

The Netherlands swimmer split 26.99/30.91 en-route to the 15th-fastest time in history and he recalled the race and its aftermath.

Kamminga told Swimming World:

“I hit the first 50 and when I came up at my breakout I heard the few people that were in there cheering for me, I could hear I was doing something special.

“I could hear in their emotions that I was swimming really fast.

“The second 50 also felt great – still not perfect but great – and then I touched and I heard everyone scream and I turned around and saw 57.

“At first I started screaming and celebrating and then I was like – wait, did I really just do this?

“Maybe I wasn’t really ready to drop it here – I knew I could swim fast but I didn’t know I could swim this fast.

“Especially dropping a half second from the morning which is huge but it was overwhelming.”

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Arno Kamminga: Photo Courtesy: Kees-Jan van Overbeeke

Messages of congratulations came from far and wide including one from a legend of the pool in the form of Cameron van der Burgh, the 2012 Olympic champion.

He said:

“My phone exploded. It was the worst part because I had the 200 the day after so I turned it off at eight in the evening and still I couldn’t sleep until 1am.

“That was amazing – all the big guys they celebrated me and congratulated me and that was really cool.

“Cameron got in touch with one of my coaches, he sent him a text so that was also really nice.

“As a small boy I was always looking up to him so it was nice to get a congratulations from him.”

Kamminga has been working with Mark Faber at the High Performance Centre in Amsterdam since 2016 and the pair believed that to do a 57 would mean going out in a 27 low, or even 27.5, so going 26.99 was a complete shock.

Still he identifies areas to improve on the second 50 but it was the first time since Antwerp in March 2020 – where he had gone 58.43 – that he was happy with his performance over two lengths.

And it also begs the question of how far he can go with a taper and rest given he was in hard training right up until the previous day.

He said:

“I was preparing myself a long time for this. For over a year I knew 57 was in there, I just needed the right race at the right moment.

“A couple of times I thought this is the day and then it didn’t happen.

“It was just overall a really great race and it was my first race in over a year where I felt ‘yeah this is the 100 I want to swim, this is the 100 where everything comes together’.

“So from Antwerp in March 2020 up until that weekend I hadn’t had any good 100 breaststroke races.

“Swimming 58.6, 58.9, 58.7, 59.0 but they all felt terrible.

“This was my first race in over a year where I felt like yeah this feels right.

“Especially after the morning I was like finally I know what a 100 needs to feel like again and it was a really nice feeling.”

Kamminga Takes Giant Leaps After Gwangju

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Photo Courtesy: Foto Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia /Insidefoto

Kamminga has propelled himself on to the top table and written his own entries in the history books in both the 100 and 200 in which he is one of just five men to go sub-2:07 with a best of 2:06.85 from December 2020.

But turn the clock back to 21 July 2019 and the World Championships in Gwangju and it all felt so far away for the 25-year-old where a time of 59.49 saw him finish 13th in the 100.

Not only that but in lane four of the same semi-final, Peaty once more sent shudders through the swimming world with a world record of 56.88.

Kamminga recalled:

“In Gwangju I was looking at him like he was way out of reach so I was more like – how the hell do you swim 56? I’m still thinking how the hell can you swim 56?

“But back then he was really out of reach, untouchable, and of course he is still way ahead of me but now I have a good go and I know I am almost within a second.

“I just keep on chipping, keep on chipping and it’s going to be fun.”

But he left Gwangju with a ticket for Tokyo in the 200br and at the FINA World Cup stop in Kazan, Russia, in the following November Kamminga dipped inside 59 for the first time when he went 58.98.

The next month he reduced that to 58.65 at the Swim Cup Amsterdam and in the process booked an Olympic slot in the 100.

If life in the pool has transformed in recent times, so it has out of the water where Kamminga has  increasingly found himself in the spotlight in the Netherlands and beyond.

Now he is the subject of full-page features in the papers with the expectation that he brings home medals from Tokyo.

While once he found it a pressure, now Kamminga says it’s a compliment although he wasn’t going to be tempted to read any articles ahead of the European Championships where the pool programme starts on Monday.

Gladiators Prepare For Battle At Duna Arena

The competition at the Duna Arena will be the first international meet of its kind in an Olympic-sized pool since Gwangju.

Kamminga marvelled at the chasm he has bridged since then, saying:

“It’s mind-blowing. Back then I was dreaming and wishing I was on the level I am now.

“I wanted to be here and now I am here and I am still looking forward of course but it feels nice to have the work pay off and to get to those competitions to win medals and race and try to be the best.

“That‘s different going into a competition than I was going into Gwangju which was more like maybe I can swim into the final, let’s hope and it was such a different mindset.”

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Photo Courtesy: Lex v Lieshout Fotografie

The last time the pair raced at the Duna Arena saw the Netherlands swimmer witness a Peaty WR close-up after the Briton set a new 50br mark of 26.10 in the final heat at the 2017 World Championships.

Kamminga was third in a three-man swim-off as Peaty went on to set another world record of 25.95 in the semis before claiming gold.

On Monday they line up for the 100br heats ahead of a race that is long on quality and promises much.

Ilya Shymanovich, whose best of 58.29 is third all-time, Nicolo Martinenghi – one place behind with a best of 58.37 from April’s Italian Championships – and world silver medallist James Wilby (58.46) will all be there.

Kamminga has never visited an international long-course podium and at the last continental showcase in Glasgow in 2018, he was seventh in both the 100 and 200 and 14th in the 50.

There’s a real sense of anticipation from the swimmer who always loves racing the big fish.

“I am so excited and especially I think I can go faster than this and knowing that I did this race on my own.

“Normally I have my best races when I race against the best of the best because they push me.

“So knowing that, I am really looking forward to finally racing the big guys again.”

Peaty has never lost a 100 final since he marked his senior debut at the 2014 Commonwealth Games with gold.

Van der Burgh won the 50 there and successfully defended his title four years later on the Gold Coast, Australia, to inflict on Peaty only the second defeat of his senior career which serves to underline his domination.

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Photo Courtesy: Kees-Jan van Overbeeke

Kamminga takes heart from his own experiences, saying:

“I’ve raced him a couple of times in Europe at the Mare Nostrum and beaten him a couple of times in the heats so then he was like I need to go really fast in the final.

“I like to think I pushed him in those races already so let’s see what the Europeans and this summer bring.”

With the 50, 100 and 200br plus the mixed medley relay, Kamminga faces up to 11 races, something that will serve as vital preparation with Tokyo little moree than two months away.

So too will it give the athletes the first taste for a long time of an extended competition.

Kamminga said:

“I like it – it’s like a last prep, a last rehearsal for the Olympics.

“The biggest part of the Olympics for me is it’s going to be so many days: all the competitions we’ve been doing have been one, two maybe three days.

“Then we have a long competition.

“For me going into into the Euros it’s especially trying to keep the focus on, trying to see it race to race and attack every single race, even in the end when I’m getting tired or pains or whatever, just attacking those races as well.

“For me that’s nice to do it here – especially my programme here is way harder than the Olympics, there’s only a men’s 200IM final between the 200br and 4×1 medley mixed final so that’s going to be fun!

“That’s probably going to hurt but after that it’s pretty nice to know you can swim a good 100 right after a 200 and keep that momentum and keep that thought so during the Olympics I know I’ve had it worse.”


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