World Championships Doha: Daniel Wiffen Talks World Records, Mindset & Doha & Beyond

Daniel Wiffen: Photo courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK

World Championships Doha: Daniel Wiffen Talks World Records, Mindset & Doha & Beyond

Daniel Wiffen made history left, right and centre in 2023, reaching a crescendo in December when he dismantled the 800 free short-course world record.

The 22-year-old became the first Irish swimmer to set a global standard when he went 7:20.46 at the European Short-Course Championships in Otopeni, Romania.

With that, Wiffen sliced 2.96secs off Grant Hackett’s mark of 7:23.42 which was the longest-standing WR dating back to July 2008.

Daniel Wiffen: Photo courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK

It brought to an end a year that saw him rip up the national and international record books time and again.

Wiffen went 14:34.91 in the 1500m freestyle at the Swim Open Stockholm in April which at the time made him the second-fastest European in history and fourth-swiftest all-time.

On to the World Championships in Fukuoka and Wiffen was fourth in the 800 and 1500 free, the former in a European record of 7:39.19 to add to the continental standard he set in the short-course pool in December 2022.

Then came his exploits in Otopeni where he also won the 400-800-1500 treble, becoming the first Irish swimmer to win European short-course gold.

Following his WR race in Romania, Wiffen described being followed by “a stampede of children” asking for his race suit, hat and goggles.

Speaking to Swimming World, Wiffen’s hope was that everybody present that evening would be inspired by what had unfolded before them, saying:

“This is what drives younger athletes to keep doing the sport. Just seeing a world record:

“I would have loved to have seen a world record as a child and those children got the opportunity which is amazing.

“I don’t think I’ve ever watched one live.

“The best world record that I’ve always remembered watching – that I think I’ve watched maybe a hundred times – was the 1500 record that Sun Yang broke.

“I just thought his stroke was amazing – I don’t think my world record will be watched as many times as that one.

“But for children to see it live, for the Irish athletes that were there, I think it’s just going to inspire a new generation of distance swimmers in Ireland.”

Sun set the 1500 WR of 14:31.02 in August 2012 en-route to Olympic gold in London, propelled home by an eye-watering 53.49 final 100m.

Up until the 2023 worlds, only Gregorio Paltrinieri had gone within two seconds of the Chinese swimmer, with his best time of 14:32.80 en-route to the 2022 world title.

However, Ahmed Hafnaoui and Bobby Finke went faster still in Fukuoka, the Tunisian finishing 0.52secs outside Sun’s WR in 14:31.54 and the American 0.57 adrift in 14:31.59.

A Change In Mindset After Fukuoka Disappointment

While Hafnaoui and Finke were fighting a ding-dong battle, Wiffen was 8.10secs outside his 14:34 PB as he finished one place off the podium in Japan in 14:43.01.

Had he reproduced that time, the Irishman would have been third: as it was, Australia’s Sam Short took bronze in 14:37.28.

Looking back, Wiffen said:

Dan Wiffen Swim Open

Daniel Wiffen: Photo Courtesy: Swim Ireland

“There was definitely disappointment. I wouldn’t say regret. I love what happened in Fukuoka – I had two fourth places and a European record.

“I wanted to be on the medal podium so bad and I think I just really got myself too much into it and I got myself into breaking that world record in my head (so much) that I just wanted to do it and I told everybody that I was ready to do it.

“Then I think the disappointment of not doing it really settled in me; to be honest, I actually struggled to come back to Loughborough to swim at the start of the season as well.”

Wiffen sat down with coach Andi Manley, figured out what had happened and emerged with a different mindset he applied at the short-course Europeans.

He said:

“After I won the 400 free I was fully prepared to win the 8 and 15: in my mind I was ready to do it but I was careful not to put too much pressure on myself by not telling the whole media that I am going to go and do it.

“I think that’s what I made a mistake doing before World Championships, saying before I did it, having all this pressure that was not needed.

“I wouldn’t say that was (a) painful (lesson): I think it was more painful that I’d swam two fourth places and everybody had seen it as a disappointment: of what I said, how well I was going to do and I didn’t back it up basically.

“I feel like that’s now in the past, we’ve forgotten about it, and now I’m a three-time European champion and a world record holder so it’s a lot better.”

Doha And Beyond

While Wiffen made news across the world following his WR in Otopeni, his focus is very much on the long-course pool.

“I would rank my 14:34 higher than my 7:20 in my head: long course – everybody watches it, that’s what the Olympics are in, that is the pinnacle of the sport.

“I don’t know what 7:20 converts to: I’d love to be able to swim best times this season, that would be great for me.

“I guess we’re kicking it off in Doha as well at the world champs.”

Daniel Wiffen

Daniel Wiffen: Photo Courtesy: Swim Ireland

Wiffen has entered the 400, 800 and 1500 and while Finke won’t be competing at the 2024 World Championships, the likes of Hafnaoui, Florian Wellbrock and Lukas Maartens await.

Wiffen has already booked his ticket to Paris 2024 and sees a multitude of benefits to come from competing in Doha in both the short and long-term.

He said:

“This is why the world champs are so good in February……then I’ve got six months (until Paris).

“If I do something in Doha that I am not happy with, or if I have made a technical error or something like that, I can refine that.

“I’ve got six months until the Olympics: I can refine that, make it good for the Olympics, and then I’ll be sweet.

“I think that’s why world champs in February are great for me because being qualified I can taper for it, I can see how fast I am and we can tweak little things to make us better at the Olympics.

“It’s also one of the only times of the year when you can get really good prize money as well.

“It’s a great opportunity to go and race as well.”


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