Liam Tancock Believes a Sub-24 50 Back Is Around the Corner


Story contributed by Howard Lloyd. 

Former world record holder Liam Tancock believes it is only a matter of time before the first sub-24 second 50m backstroke is clocked.

Tancock was watching from the stands in Glasgow as 18-year-old Russian prodigy Kliment Kolesnikov set a new world’s best of 24.00secs at the European Championships.

It shaved 0.04secs off the previous mark set by Tancock at the 2009 World Championships, and was almost a full second faster than Lenny Krayzelburg’s world record time of 24.99 set in 1999.

After Kolesnikov’s exploits, Tancock sought out the Russian to offer his congratulations at Glasgow’s Tollcross International Swimming Centre.

But despite taking nine years and two days to break, the Briton has a hunch that it will be considerably less time before a new record – and the first sub-24 second effort – is set.

“Records are there to be broken and I am really glad I got to watch it in the stands rather than it being on the other side of the world and me having to look it up on YouTube,” said Tancock.

“I made a point after the race of finding him, shaking his hand, passing on the baton and saying well done. It was a brilliant swim.

It wasn’t bittersweet at all – nobody can take the medals away from me, nobody can take the times away from me. I won at them at one point and now, rather than being a world record holder, I am a former world record holder. It just feels great to be part of the progression of the sport.

Kolesnikov has brought it down by 0.04secs again so it is inching down and I am sure it won’t be long before we see it in the 23s. This sport is changing day by day.”

Now 33, Tancock actually broke the world record three times.

The first of them came in 2008, swimming 24.47 to shave a meaty 0.33secs off German Thomas Rupprath’s mark of 24.80 set in 2003.

American Randall Bal then bettered that with a 24.33 in 2008, before Tancock again took centre stage in the 2009 World Championships.

The three-times world champion smashed Bal’s time with 24.08 in the semi-finals, before clocking 24.04 in the final on his way to gold.

“I remember pretty much every part of that swim – it was incredible,” said Tancock of the final in Rome’s Foro Italico.

“I actually got a better start in the semi-final when I broke it, but I obviously did something right for the rest of it because I beat it by 0.04secs.

You know if you’re swimming fast and, although I didn’t get confirmation until I saw the scoreboard, I knew I’d had a good swim for sure.”

That effort remained the benchmark until Kolesnikov’s heroics in Glasgow,

And looking at the Russian’s pedigree – he holds world records in the junior 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke – he looks a solid bet for further glory at both world and  Olympic standard.

“Who knows what levels he can hit?” said Tancock. “He is a young lad who has been doing great things at world junior level for a number of years.

“He is now coming through onto the senior stage and I think we will see a lot more of him in the coming years.

It is an exciting time for the sport though and he has pushed the boundaries, which is great to see.”