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Alshammar's Gold Her 68th Big Medal

Dec 17, 2010  - Craig Lord

Dubai, world s/c championships, day 3 finals

Women's 50m Butterfly

Therese Alshammar's treasury grows with every passing meet. Champion in 2006, the world record holder took her second crown in the event in a championship record of 24.87, just 0.03sec ahead of Felicity Galvez (AUS), the bronze going to Jeanette Ottesen (DEN) in 25.24. The top two are the only women ever to have dipped below 25sec while racing in a textile suit. The world long-course champion who took the crown from under Alshammar's nose in Rome last summer, finished last in 25.96 today. 

The result:

  • Alshammar 24.87 CR
  • Galvez 24.90
  • Ottesen 25.24
  • Lu Ying (CHN) 25.34
  • Inge Dekker (NED) 25.48
  • Triin Aljand (EST) 25.61
  • Christine Magnuson (USA) 25.74
  • Marieke Guehrer (AUS) 25.96

The win took the 33-year-old Alshammar's record tally of international medals at Olympic, world and European levels to 68. her first big title were the European long-course freestyle sprint crowns in 2000, which she followed up with Olympic silver in both the 50m and 100m the same year in Sydney.

Yu Ling (CHN) just missed the medals, on 25.34, the top four times all entering the all-time fastest five ranked performances by swimmers wearing textile suits, the medals occupying the top three slots on that list.

Alshammar, coached by Johan Wallberg in Stockholm, is just one medal shy now of the record women's tally at multiple world s/c championships of 18, help by American Jenny Thompson. After the 'fly final, the champion was optimistic that the medley relay might deliver the match, saying: "I have the relay now and I'm on my way to talk to the other girls and gear them up because they're the ones that can make it happen for me." It was not to be, China, the USA and Australia taking the prizes well ahead of the rest in the swiftest textile-suit times in history. 

On her near miss, Galvez said: "It was always going to be quite tough, it's been a cat fight between us all the way through heats and semis but I have to be happy with that time. It was a lifetime best and I can't complain but there are always things I can improve on... maybe next time...".

History in the making:

World s/c Podiums

  • 2010: 24.97; 24.90; 25.24
  • 2008: 25.32; 25.40; 25.60
  • 2006: 25.76; 25.95; 26.07

Most world titles in this event:  3

  • Jenny Thompson (USA) 1999, 2000, 2004

Records (TB = best ever in a textile suit)

  • WR: 24.46 Therese Alshammar (SWE) 11.11.10
  • TB: 24.87 Therese Alshammar (SWE) 17.12.10

Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 4

  • Anna-Karin Kammerling (SWE) 1999-2008

All-time textile rankings top 5:

  • 24.87 Alshammar Dubai 2010
  • 24.90 Galvez Dubai 2010
  • 25.25 Ottesen Dubai 2010
  • 25.33 Kammerling 2005
  • 25.34 Ying Lu Dubai 2010

From the archive:

Winner of the world s/c crown a record thrice and the most medalled woman in USA Swimming history, Jenny Thompson was inducted at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2009. Here is how I recorded the moment:

Time and hearts stood still as Jenny Thompson choked back tears, struggled to compose herself and apologised (though she owed no-one an apology) as she recalled the journey that led to her induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame here in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday night.

Now an anesthesiologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, she credited her family, teammates and each of her coaches in turn and measured her latest honour beyond all others because it celebrated the accumulation of a fine career that included a record eight Olympic relay golds and 18 world championship golds, among them 11 solo crowns. You can read more about her achievements and those of fellow 2009 inductees Alex Popov (RUS) and Inge de Bruijn (NED), both unable to attend the event in Florida, on ISHOF's website.

As a girl growing up in the 1980s she had been inspired by three of the all-time greats of swimming, Tracy Caulkins, Mary T Meagher and Aussie legend Dawn Fraser “after reading her book”. Inspiration, dreams, leading by example, the dedication, the discipline, all things lent from the thread of history. Success of one generation begat success of the next; the reason why the Hall of Fame deserves the support of the wider world swimming community as the living library of aquatic sports; among reasons why the USA is so successful in the pool.

Thompson dedicated her award to two people who both died of cancer. Her mother, a “bohemian” woman who taught her daughter, one of six siblings, to be tough, was almost always there in the stands with a proud smile “win or lose”; travelled to Barcelona (Thompson’s favourite city) worlds in 2003 to watch her daughter win the 100m butterfly title at a time when she was dying from Cancer and “so thin, you could see through her”; and took out a second mortgage on her house so that “she could follow me around to two meets” that year.

And then there was Stanford coach Richard Quick, departed this year. He had taught her that “the only boundaries to success were in my own mind”. Quick, said Thompson, was “hands down the most positive person I have ever met”. 

Thompson began swimming at age 7 at a summer country club called Cedardale in Groveland, Massachusetts. Until 12 she was guided by coach Nancy Pearson Brennan before moving to Seacoast Swimming Association under coaches Amy and Mike Parratto. They taught her “how to set goals to achieve your best, and that ethics and integrity are everything and that to cheat is to be nothing”. Before her college days with Quick, coach Tom Collins oversaw that delicate transition between junior and senior waters.

Thompson will go down in swimming history as the woman who finally broke the stunning 100m butterfly record that stood to Mary T Meagher from 1981 to 1999. In 1992, Thompson broke the 100m freestyle world record but at the Barcelona Olympic Games it was Zhuang Yong of China who claimed the crown at a time when Olympic champions were not automatically tested for doping and in an era in which China was operating a widespread doping programme, which started to unravel in 1994 with the first wave of what would eventually become more than 40 positive tests among Chinese swimmers.