2019 Splashbacks – Jul-Aug: Kristof Milak Overturns Phelps’ Record, Podium Protests Abound at World Championships


This year has been another stacked with thrills and spills in the aquatics world. It included the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, and the debut of the International Swim League (ISL). Swimming World had our readers covered every step of the way. In the final days of 2019, we’re looking in the mirror in our “Splashbacks” series of some of the most read stories of 2019.

Among the top stories of July and August …

1. Michael Phelps & Bob Bowman Hail Kristof Milak As Coach Selmeci Says “Everything Changes” (Race Video)

Plaudits from Michael Phelps, praise from Bob Bowman, hats and ‘everything else’ off from Chad Le Clos.

Then there’s coach Atilla Selmeci, who wants to keep Kristof Malik’s feet on the ground and broad shoulders to the wheel after watching his charge fly to a 1:50.73 world record inside Phelps’ pioneering pace over 200m butterfly at Rome 2009 in shiny suit. The sizzling performance sliced almost an entire second from Phelps’ previous record of 1:51.51.

2. Watch Regan Smith in 100 Back, USA Medley Relay Shatter World Records in Same Race (Race Video)

Regan Smith crushed the 200m backstroke World record in Gwangju – and then did it again over 100m when leading the USA to the 4x100m medley World title and World record. Watch it unfold…

Other World Records set In Gwangju:

3. Duncan Scott Joins Mack Horton in Podium Protest After “You Loser” Rant From Sun Yang

The 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea were ripe with controversy as FINA issued warnings to multiple swimmers for “bringing the sport and/or FINA into disrepute.” The warnings were issued after Australia’s Mack Horton and Great Britain’s Duncan Scott refused to pose for photos on the podium with China’s Sun Yang, winner of the men’s 400m and 200m freestyles.

Sun won the 400m on night one of the World Championships, but was awarded gold for the 200m on night two after Lithuania’s Danys Rapsys was disqualified. Following that announcement, Sun turned to the two bronze medallists and shouted “you loser…(me) the winner.” This prompted Scott’s silent podium protest, which was received with boos from Chinese fans and cheering from many others.

4. Backstroke Wedges Now to be Used on One Setting for Night Two Finals After Team Meeting at World Swimming Championships

Backstroke wedges were a point of frustration in 2019, as the wedges malfunctioned on more than one occasion. Originally, it was reported that the backstroke wedges would not be used for night two finals of the 2019 World Championships, after a rough morning with the wedges. However, after multiple complains from multiple nations, FINA revisited the wedge situation and decided that the backstroke wedgs would be used on a single setting.

5. International Swimming League Bans Gabriel Santos, Suspends Shayna Jack After Positive Tests

From it’s inception the International Swimming League (ISL) has been clear on one thing: they will not tolerate doping violations. So, after Brazil’s Gabriel Da Silva Santos and Australia’s Shayna Jack received positive doping violations for Clostebul and Ligandrol respectively, there was only one move for the ISL: ban/suspend them from the newly formed league.

6. Shayna Jack Doping Positive Rocks Australia at Acrimonious World Championships as Sprinter Professes Innocence

The night before racing was to begin at the 2019 FINA World Championships, young Australian sprinter Shayna Jack mysteriously went home for “personal reasons.” One week later, Jack later sat down with the Australian Sunday Telegraph for an exclusive interview, where she disclosed that she had tested positive for a banned substance during a routine testing. The testing took place at a pre-Worlds training camp in Japan two weeks prior to the World Championships.

7. Adam Peaty Calls FINA’s New Code of Conduct “Meaningless;” Freedom of Speech Will Rule

Following the silent podium protests and FINA issuing “warnings” to multiple athletes, FINA established an emergency Code of Conduct to stifle any other protests (silent or otherwise) from happening. After doing so, Great Britain’s Adam Peaty spoke out about the Code of Conduct, calling it “meaningless.” Peaty continued, stating, “It’s free speech. I don’t think anyone should get a warning for exercising their right to free speech. And doping in the sport is a straight no from me.”

8. Seri Harris–Fired as Women’s Water Polo Coach–Drops a Bomb on Swimming South Africa

In May 2019, Seri Harris was unexpectedly fired as South Africa’s head women’s water polo coach. The firing came from Swimming South Africa (SSA), who oversees the men’s and women’s swimming national teams, and Harris immediately questioned why SSA was the one to fire her. Many current and former athletes supported Harris, with two teammates quitting the World Championships team, while SSA stepped forward with a formal response that stated Harris was racist in her selections for the national team.

In the aftermath, she explained her side of the firing in an interview with Swimming World’s Michael Randazzo. This is her story.

9. Australia’s Sunday Telegraph Publishes Sun Yang FINA Doping Panel Report in Full, English & Mandarin

Prior to the start of the 2019 FINA World Championships, Australia’s Sunday Telegraph published the entirety of Sun Yang’s doping panel report in full. The 59-page report was published, so that people can see “why elite swimmers around the world want to see the Chinese superstar banned from their sport.”

Swimming World’s editor-in-chief Craig Lord dissected the report, the details of which he exposed in a Sunday Times article in January 2019, and outlined the witnesses for FINA, Sun and his witnesses, and the warnings issued by FINA’s Doping Panel to Sun.

10. An Open Letter to Summer League Swimming

For many swimmers, summer league swimming is where it all began. It’s where friendships are built; courage and confidence is grown; and love for the water is developed. Swimming World college intern Molly Griswold penned a timely “An Open Letter to Summer League Swimming” to show her appreciation for summer league swimming.

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