Weird Stat of the Day: Men’s 1500 At Europeans Was First Time Eight Swimmers Broke 15 Minutes in One Heat

Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli/ Deepbluemedia /Insidefoto

By Andy Ross

Amongst all the craziness in the swimming world currently going on–Phillips 66 Nationals, Speedo Juniors, Europeans–it was hard to keep up with everything and fully digest what it all meant.

Kathleen Baker broke a world recordAdam Peaty broke a world recordKliment Kolesnikov broke a world record. That’s six total word records for 2018 when you add in Team Australia’s 4×100 free relay, Katie Ledecky and Andrii Govorov. In 2017, there were eight total world records that fell. Eight world records were also tumbled in 2016 in seven total events.

But we are not here to talk world records, numbers that are recorded in books and online databases. No, an all-time first was recorded at the European Championships in Glasgow, but we aren’t talking about any sort of record at all.

In the men’s 1500 free final on Sunday night, it was the first time that all eight swimmers broke 15 minutes in the same heat.

Florian Wellbrock of Germany dethroned the reigning World and Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy, and even held off a late push from the Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk, who was the reigning World Championship silver medalist, over the last 500 of the race to win the final in a 14:36.15.

Wellbrock moved up to fourth all-time in the event with his 14:36 effort. Romanchuk was second in the race at 14:36.88, moving up to fifth all-time. Paltrinieri led early but fell off pace and settled for bronze in 14:42.85.

The rest of the historic field was Italy’s Dominic Acerenza (14:51.88), Norway’s Henrik Christiansen (14:56.47), France’s Damien Joly (14:57.82), Ukraine’s Sergiy Frolov (14:58.46) and the Czech Republic’s Jan Micka (14:59.49).

WELLBROCK Florian GER Gold Medal 1500m Freestyle Men Finals Glasgow 05/08/18 Swimming Tollcross International Swimming Centre LEN European Aquatics Championships 2018 European Championships 2018 Photo Andrea Masini/ Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Photo Courtesy: eepbluemedia/Giorgio Scala

Close But No Cigar

This stat was brought up at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne when commentator Mike McCann said there has never been a final where all eight swimmers had broken 15 minutes. It did not come to fruition at that meet when seven guys broke 15, leaving only American Erik Vendt in eighth at 15:07.76.

Twelve total guys broke 15 in the 1500 prelims in Beijing ten years ago, with eighth place Larsen Jensen getting into the final at 14:49.53, easily the quickest it had ever been to get into a 1500 final. But the guys in the final got caught up racing each other, with the pace slower than it was in the heats. The winning time by Tunisia’s Oussama Mellouli was a 14:40.84, nearly two seconds slower than Grant Hackett’s 14:38.92 he did in the heats.

Again seven guys broke 15 in the final, but it was a 16-year-old Sun Yang who finished eighth in 15:05.12, despite seventh place finisher Zhang Lin of China getting seventh at 14:55.20.

In the historic 2009 Worlds in Rome, it was a surprisingly “slow” final with only six guys breaking 15 in the heats, and again six breaking 15 in the final, leaving Spain’s Marco Rivera (15:01.92) and Italy’s Samuel Pizzetti (15:19.38) in seventh and eighth.

Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

The closest we ever came to getting eight guys under 15 minutes in one heat was at the 2012 London Olympics when Sun Yang broke the world record that still stands with a 14:31.02. Great Britain’s Daniel Fogg swam a 15:00.76 to finish in eighth place, getting oh so close to breaking 15 minutes. Despite ten guys breaking the barrier in the heats, it was still yet to be seen if eight guys in the same heat could break the barrier.

More 1500 finals came and went. In 2013, there were five under. In 2015, there were five. In 2016, there were seven. In 2017, there were six.

Was it a curse? Would it ever happen?

Things happen when you least expect them

I was keeping up with the European Championships while I was still covering the Speedo Junior Nationals in Irvine. I didn’t get to watch any videos of the meet in Glasgow until my flight home on Sunday night. When I finally woke up on Monday, I watched the last two days I had missed.

It was relatively surprising to see how fast the medalists went, with Wellbrock and Romanchuk moving up the all-time rankings. Europe has always been really deep in swimming, and the 1500 had the gold and silver medalists from the 2017 Worlds, along with Wellbrock who had the fastest time of 2018 already.

I was half paying attention when the commentators said that all eight of the guys in the final broke 15 minutes. Wait, what? It finally happened!

“Isn’t it good to see all eight under 15? How often do you see that?” One of the British commentators asked.

“I don’t really remember a race where all the swimmers were under 15,” the other commentator said.

The commentators recognized right away it was an historic feat, but didn’t realize in the moment that it was the first time it had ever happened.

It was a bit surprising to see it happen not on the World stage, but it is fun to see the sport progressing and see the swimmers get faster each year.