World Championships: Thomas Ceccon Crushes World Record to Claim 100 Back World Title

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Thomas Ceccon -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships: Thomas Ceccon Crushes World Record to Claim 100 Back World Title

The world record in the men’s 100 backstroke had lasted six years and numerous challenges, but in a stunning moment at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Italy’s Thomas Ceccon smashed that mark. Ceccon, 21, had finished fourth at the Olympic Games last year in the 100 back in his first taste of elite-level international racing, and he won a pair of relay medals in Tokyo (silver in the 400 freestyle relay and bronze in the 400 medley relay), but now, Ceccon is the world’s best sprint backstroker.

Ceccon swam a lifetime-best mark of 52.12 to qualify second for the final, three hundredths behind Greece’s Apostolos Christou (52.09). In the final, former world-record holder and 2016 Olympic champion Ryan Murphy had the fastest start, as is his custom, and he emerged ahead of the field. Murphy flipped first at the halfway point in 25.02, just ahead of Ceccon in 25.14, and Murphy was first at the 75-meter mark, but then Ceccon powered to the front and pulled away. Ceccon’s second-50 split was 26.46, and the result was a quarter-second faster than any other human had ever recorded.

Ceccon finished in 51.60, crushing Murphy’s record of 51.85 set leading off the 400 medley relay at the Rio Olympics. Murphy placed second in 51.97, while fellow American Hunter Armstrong was also under 52 as he claimed bronze in 51.98.

“I haven’t realized that I broke the world record,” Ceccon said. “I didn’t think of any record or time before the start. I just swam my own race. The water and the pool are excellent and it’s a fantastic thing when you break the world record in every sport. For me, it’s simply unbelievable.”

Asked after the race whether the world title or the world record is more significant for him, Ceccon replied, “Maybe the world record. It’s not a normal thing, so it’s special for me now. The win is the win, but the world record is one time.” Ceccon added that he would like to hold the world record “as long as possible, but I will try to break 51.6 in the medley relay Saturday.”

Murphy’s time was his quickest in four years, and he was faster than the 51.98 that Evgeny Rylov swam to win gold at the Olympics last year. At the finish, Murphy could only nod in amazement at Ceccon’s performance as he quickly swam over to congratulate the mustachioed Italian.

“I honestly was not expecting to be that fast, so I’m honestly really happy about that. That was a really nice swim on my end,” Murphy told NBC Sports after the race. “Thomas is an incredible talent. Hats off to him. That’s a gnarly swim. And some good motivation for the next couple years.”

Meanwhile, Armstrong almost matched Ceccon on the second length with his 26.54 split, and that allowed him to reach the medal podium after he did not even make the final in his Olympic debut last year. Armstrong knocked two tenths off his best time, and he moved to sixth all-time behind Ceccon, Murphy, Xu Jiayu, Aaron Peirsol and Rylov.

“It means the world,” Armstrong said in his NBC Sports interview. “I remember telling Murph last year when we made the team together that what I wanted more than anything was to share the podium with him. He’s a legend. We wanted 1-2 obviously, but first final at international meet, to win a medal, but to do it with this guy makes it so much more meaningful.”

France’s Yohann Ndoye-Brouard finished fourth in 52.50, but he was more than a half-second back of the medalists, while Christou was fifth in 52.57.

Notably, Rylov and fellow Russian Kliment Kolesnikov were absent from this field after they captured Olympic gold and silver, respectively, in 2021. All Russian and Belorussian swimmers are banned from the World Championships following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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