World Championships, Day Two Finals: Perfectly-Timed Finish Propels Diogo Ribeiro To 50 Fly Gold; First Portuguese World Champion

Diogo Matos Ribeiro: photo courtesy: Giorgio Perottino / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

World Championships, Day Two Finals: Perfectly-Timed Finish Propels Diogo Ribeiro To 50 Fly Gold; Becomes First Portuguese World Champion

Diogo Ribeiro timed his finish perfectly to win the 50m butterfly and become the first Portuguese to claim World Championships gold in Doha.

The 19-year-old was the first Portuguese swimmer to win a world medal in any aquatic discipline when he took silver at the 2023 worlds in Fukuoka before he upgraded to gold in 22.97 ahead of Michael Andrew (23.07) and freestyle specialist Cameron McEvoy (23.08).

Reigning gold medallist Thomas Ceccon withdrew last month with a finger injury sustained in December meaning there’d be a new champion and although Ribeiro didn’t have a good start, he came through to take victory as the only man inside 23secs.

Ribeiro absorbed the history of the moment after leaving the pool, and said:

“Yesterday and today I couldn’t sleep after lunchtime thinking about being a world champion.

“It was what I was expecting here because I was the top in the start list, but we know that being in a World Championships isn’t about doing your best in the heats or the semifinal, it’s about doing it in the final.

“I think I achieved that and I’m so glad for it.”

Diogo Matos Ribeiro: photo courtesy: Giorgio Perottino / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Ribeiro set the world junior record of 22.96 in September 2022 at the World Junior Championships in Lima, Peru where he also claimed the 50 free and 100 fly.

That followed his 50 fly bronze behind Ceccon and Maxime Grousset of France at the Europeans in Rome neither of whom are competing in Doha.

Of the race, Ribeiro said:

“When the start was really wrong for me, I thought for a moment I couldn’t win.

“My breakout wasn’t good, but then I gave my all.

“When I touched the wall and watched the time and I saw I was first, I got a feeling that I had never ever felt before.

“This medal goes for my country, my staff, my family, my girlfriend who’s here supporting me… it means that we all can do it, we just have to think big and always think that everything is possible.

“I’ve got three more events here., I want to make finals in each of them and maybe get to the podium.

“I can’t believe that I’m a world champion and that the national anthem of Portugal will sound for me, for the first time ever!”

Andrew had led the prelims in 22.94 and was seeking his first individual world title in the long-course pool.

The American now has four silvers among seven medals across four World Championships dating back to Gwangju 2019.

He said:

“I know what I am capable of and if I allow myself to get out of my head, the medals will come.

“I feel like as an athlete racing your best, there’s a fine line between thinking about what you need to do in the race and just doing it, especially in the 50m race, there’s so much that happens at such a detailed level that I think if I just stop thinking, I’ll probably swim a little faster.

“I took a little long into the breakout and lost a little speed into the front end, but I found my rhythm and part of that is just trying too hard, so I just have to swim.”

It was a first international butterfly final for McEvoy – the reigning 50 free world champion – with the Australian enjoying a new lease of life after returning to international competition at the Fukuoka worlds after time away from competition.

Cameron McEvoy, Diogo Ribeiro & Michael Andrew: photo courtesy: Giorgio Perottino / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

The first medal of his senior career came at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona with silver in the medley relay and Monday’s medal came as a pleasant surprise for the 29-year-old.

He said:

“I was eighteenth in Fukuoka and third today – so this is quite a big step in six months. So it is a big surprise and it is very nice.

“It was tough in a different sense. It’s twenty-three seconds of swimming, so it is not physically demanding in this sense – like pain and lactic acids but skill based.

“It is almost like a dance – if you could do the first step right, the whole thing goes well.

“The mental effect – tonight the things were going the way I wanted it to go and that was the toughest part.

“Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it does not but it was good.”

He added:

“I prefer no music before the start. I just kind of want to hear just reality. I can dance, but only in water. I am not a land animal, I am built for aquatics. When I am on land, no chance.

“The butterfly was very enjoyable – that is the first international final that was not freestyle in my career.

“I am 30 this year and my first international competition at this point of my career, that is exciting.

“It is easy to go into a race when there is an element of experimentation of play than when it is very serious. I enjoyed it. The result speaks for itself. I loved my momentum.”


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