Minna Atherton’s Milestone World Record In League Waters Will Stand, FINA Tells Aussie Fed

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Minna Atherton - Photo Courtesy: Singapore Swimming Federation

Exclusive – It’s official! Minna Atherton’s milestone world record will stand

(Additional reporting Craig Lord)

Australian Minna Atherton’s world record in the 100m backstroke from the International Swimming League in Budapest will stand – and that’s official!

Swimming Australia’s leading administrators have confirmed today that governing body FINA would officially recognise the milestone world record of 54.89 seconds – the first woman under 55 seconds – and the first Australian to hold a world record in the short-course 100m backstroke.

There had been doubt because the international federation had failed to answer media questions, including those from Swimming World Editor Craig Lord, about the status of any World records set in ISL competition. FINA approved some IDSL events but not those that clashed on the calendar with FINA’s World Cup.

While the question of what will happen if a World record falls when FINA would rather it didn’t hangs heavy in the air yet, Atherton’s Hungarian Rhapsody on backstroke in Budapest is in the clear.

Minna Atherton’s World Record:

Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell, a strong supporter of her athletes in the ISL said:

“Minna’s record will be ratified by FINA and no problems with National records (recognising any records from swimmers in the ISL events).”

That indicates that Atherton’s Commonwealth standards over 50 and 200m backstroke will also stand.

Minna Atherton AUS, 100m Backstroke Final, 18th FINA World Swimming Championships 2019, 23 July 2019, Gwangju South Korea. Pic by Delly Carr/Swimming Australia. Pic credit requested and mandatory for free editorial usage. THANK YOU.

Minna Atherton – Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr/Swimming Australia

“Great news,” said senior one FINA source, adding:

“It’s hard to fathom why FINA’s leadership cannot simply be transparent and clear on these matters. The issue of not counting records that fall by swimmers who prefer to race beyond the World Cup is one that will come back at some stage. It would make no sense whatsoever to discount a World record on the basis that the swimmer made one choice and not the other. In fact, it’s hard to see how that infringement of rights could stand.”

Dolphins head coach Jacco Verhaeren, who was in Budapest to witness his rising star attack the event, like no one had ever attacked it before, reiterated Russell’s comments, saying:

“Yes the world record will be recognised. All FINA rules have been followed.”

He also confirmed that FINA would not recognise world records when there’s a FINA World Cup at the same time as the ISL, as Swimming World indicated when Katie Ledecky came within a finger of taking down the 400m freestyle world record in Indianapolis in early October at the inaugural ISDL event.

Meanwhile, Atherton’s swim goes down as the performance of the League, the week and one of the finest efforts of 2019, in a season that saw Regan Smith (USA) take down the 100m and 200m long course world recordswirth pioneering efforts at the World Championships in Gwangju.

The ‘Quietest Achiever’

Atherton is the original quiet achiever and in the Australian Dolphins Swim Team she has often been described as “the quietest achiever.”

Softy, softly Minna first burst onto the team in 2015 with victories over 100 and 200m backstroke in the World Junior Championships in Singapore, attended by the then Dolphins Media Manager, Kathleen Rayment, who met her newly crowned junior world champ in the Mixed Zone.

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Minna Atherton – Photo Courtesy: Singapore Swimming Federation

Camera rolling, Kath fired question after question at the quietly spoken girl who trains at Brisbane Boys Grammar, under young coach David Lush – who would be named the ASCTA Coach of the Year for his efforts with World-champion backstroker Emily Seebohm at the 2017 World Championships.

But Atherton, tall, imposing and with the biggest smile, let her swimming do the talking – and when asked how the moment felt, shrugged her shoulders and said…not much.

The limelight and the immediate attention from the media was not something Atherton was used to nor sought, she was just a shy teenager from Brisbane, often referred to in Australia as a “big country town.”

And country folk are often quietly spoken and who too let their actions do the talking in the trying times in the outback.

When the young Dolphins retuned home, Rayment arranged for Atherton to have some expert media training.

A leading television sport cameraman and journalist and media manager spent the morning with Atherton and her high profile club mate Seebohm and Brittany Elmslie at Brisbane Grammar.

 

Minna arrived in school uniform and like lessons learnt in the pool she was also ready to learn from the Olympians she shared lanes with.

From Brisbane to Budapest via the Antarctic

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Minna Atherton – 3 golds at 2015 World Junior Championships – Photo Courtesy: Singapore Swimming Federation

But the kid who coach Lush had no doubts would one day also rule the pool, was ready, albeit reluctantly, to learn about handling herself outside the pool, about talking to the media, feeling comfortable in the mixed zone and telling her story.

After a grilling and practicing how to handle the tough questions on drugs and managing expectations, it was time to reveal “something we don’t know about you ?”

“Well….,” replied young Minna, with that cheeky unassuming smile… “I once went swimming in the Antartic!!!”

And with Elmslie still in the room, the then London Olympic relay gold medallist, who would also win gold again in London, had a look of “What the!” on her face.

Minna had been on holidays with her parents in the Antartic and thought nothing of diving into the freezing waters and was now telling the story.

And no wonder that Minna Atherton has turned out to be one of the coolest customers in world swimming as she showed against the best of the best and on its newest stage with her team from the London Roar.

A swimmer who had made her senior debut at the 2016 World Short Course Championships in a “snow capped” Windsor in Canada after missing the Olympic team – finishing third to two of the world’s best in Seebohm and Madison Wilson after leaving her nose clip in her kit bag. Beaten by a Nose….

Atherton would have to wait until 2018 before again making the Australian Team for a home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast – a Speedo sponsored athlete, but still no medal in an red hot backstroke fields.

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Katinka Hosszu – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Bring on the 2018 World Short Course Championships and Atherton makes the podium – equal bronze in the 100m backstroke behind Olivia Smoliga and “The Iron Lady” and world record holder Katinka Hosszu – but with just 0.55 between the top four.

Fast forward to the 2019 World Long Couse Championships and Australia unleashes its two young gun backstrokers – Minna Atherton and Kaylee McKeown – winning respective silver medals, Atherton behind Canada’s Kyle Masse in the 100m and McKeown behind the amazing Regan Smith from the USA, who produced a swim for the ages and clocking an extraordinary 200m backstroke world mark of 2:03.35.

The baby brigade of backstrokers are on the move.

Bring on Tokyo 2020 with this new age pool of talent attacking the water like never before….greatness grows faster…and faster.

 

 

4 comments

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Well done Minna, actually, Bert… while FINA has much monopoly yet to let go of… Had Katie Ledecky been a hand faster in the 400m free in Indy, her WR would not have counted… clearly FINA has to come to its senses and work with others to deliver the wishes of athletes and the best outcomes for the sport. In all this process, media from the world over have asked questions of FINA and those questions have gone unanswered. That is unacceptable, lacks transparency and is part of an old culture well past its sell-by date. When FINA’s leadership delivers the world-class performance level we see from Minna, Chad and many others, when we finally hear from those who work (and have worked for decades) within the FINA realm but turn blind eyes and hold a hand over their mouths for the sake of self-preservation when bad things are happening (like allowing open water races to proceed in dangerous conditions beyond the limits of rules designed for athlete safety), that’ll be the time to congratulate FINA. Kind regards, Craig

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