Zane Waddell Posts Big Upset for World Title in Men’s 50 Back

South Africa's Zane Waddell -- Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

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World Swimming Championships Zane Waddell

Gwangju 2019

Day Eight Finals

Men’s 50 Back

Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov held the world record in the men’s 50 back and posted the top time in the semifinals at 24.35. But Kolesnikov appeared to get off to a poor start and emerged well behind the field, leaving the field wide open for the taking. In his stead, South Africa’s Zane Waddell, a 21-year-old senior-to-be at the University of Alabama competing in his first major championships, pulled off a shocker to win the world title.

Waddell came through at the very end and touched in 24.43, beating out Russia’s Evgeny Rylov (24.49) by six hundredths. Rylov earned his third silver medal of the week to go along with his gold medal in the men’s 200 back. Kolesnikov finished strong to take bronze in 24.51, locking off two strong Americans from the podium. That gave Russia its first two-swimmer podium of the week.

“The night really came together. The warm up went really well. A lot of emotion at the end of that race. There is nothing I can describe: it has always been a dream of mine to be a world champion and it’s amazing to finally realise that dream and go out and achieve it,” Waddell said.

“I knew it was going to be the closest race of my life. I have huge respect for the other seven competitors out there and it’s just an amazing spirit to have got my hand first to the wall, it just so happened to be me, it’s amazing.”

The medals marked Waddell’s first international medal of any color since the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games, where he won four gold and two bronze. He had never represented South Africa internationally on a senior level, and the 50 back marked his only event of the week in Gwangju. Previously, the most significant victory of Waddell’s career came at the NCAA championships this past March, when he led off Alabama’s 200 medley relay on the way to a national title.

Ryan Murphy ended up with his second fourth-place finish of the week to go along with his silver in the 200 back after touching in 24.53. Meanwhile, 20-year-old Michael Andrew picked up fifth in 24.58, off his season-best time of 24.39 that ranks him second in the world. Even without finishing in the medals, Andrew became the first man to qualify for finals in all four 50-meter events at a World Championships.

Meanwhile, China’s Xu Jiayu finished sixth in 24.64 after defending his world title in the 100 back earlier this week.


  1. Zane Waddell (RSA), 24.43
  2. Evgeny Rylov (RUS), 24.49
  3. Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS), 24.51
  4. Ryan Murphy (USA), 24.53
  5. Michael Andrew (USA), 24.58
  6. Xu Jiayu (CHN), 24.64
  7. Robert Glinta (ROU), 24.67
  8. Apostolos Christou (GRE), 24.75

Read more about the FINA World Swimming Championships.

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Christine Chan
4 years ago

Anything can happen.. Always.. Wow

Karen Lynn Freeman
4 years ago

Fantastic – Well done Zane Waddell.

4 years ago

Roll Tide Zane!

Hiske Smart
Hiske Smart
4 years ago

The child from Welkom did it and we are sooooooo proud of him!! From all your swim mates who had trained in the Welkom pool when you were all 10 years old…… we wish you even better success in the years to come!

4 years ago

Roll Tide Roll! Well Done!

Cheryl Stelmar
4 years ago


Izak Hattingh
4 years ago

Izak Hattingh Jnr

4 years ago

Article is not accurate. This was not his first major international competition or medal. Several weeks prior Zane won gold at world University Games in Italy in the same event.

David Morrow Guthrie
4 years ago

He’s super fast in short course. Always among the fastest in 50s.

Thomas A. Small
4 years ago


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