Day 2 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai
Men's 100m breaststroke
Against a backdrop of tragic news and massacre back home, Alexander Dale Oen (NOR) became the first man to break 59sec in a textile suit as he lifted the world crown ahead of Fabio Scozzoli (ITA) and Cameron Van Der Burgh (RSA).
Majestic, technically superb and powerful throughout, Dale Oen finished head and shoulders above the rest, including Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) and reigning world champion Brenton Rickard (AUS), his 58.71 victory representing a huge leap in standards. The time fell just 0.13sec shy of Rickard's world mark set in a polyurethane suit back in Rome 2009.
Scozzoli took silver in 59.42, Van Der Burgh bronze in 59.49. No others broke the minute, Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) and defending champion Brenton Rickard (AUS) among those stunned by Dale Oen's pace and unable to recover.
Race report and post-race interview:
Dale Oen used the pain experienced by his country as a result of bomb and shooting attacks back home in Norway to drive him to victory, though racing with his heart may well have cost him what would have been the first world l/c record in almost 20 months, he told SwimNews on the bus back to the hotel from the pool.
The first Norwegian to claim a world swimming title, Dale Oen's 58.71sec came off a phenomenal split of 27.20, 0.47sec inside the pace set by Brenton Rickard (AUS) on his way to the 58.58sec world mark of Rome 2009. Asked is he thought that he had to go out so fast in order to have a chance of getting close to the booster suit benchmark, the Norwegian said: "I could have broken the record if I had paced it better. But that swim came from my heart. I was very emotional. I swam for my king, my country and our people who need to feel our love and support."
He raced just three days after attacks that left as many as 93 people dead back home and had lived, with his entourage and the rest of the Norwegian team, through a roller-coaster of emotions since the news broke.
"I just tried to use what happened back home as fuel and tried to think we just need to push forward. We just need to let everyday life come back. We can't let this guy ruin the future for us," Dale Oen said. "Seeing the flag and hearing the national anthem, it was all coming back and the thoughts of what happened. Even though it's been three or four days now, it's still a shock."
Dale Oen said he tried to push the tragedy to the back of his mind and focus on the race. "I try not to think too much about what's happening back home, but it's impossible," said the 26-year-old winner of Olympic silver in 2008 who was blown off course by a post-Games break and the "disastrous suits" in 2009.
After winning, he pointed to the Norwegian flag on his swimming cap in a show of solidarity with his countrymen. "I just tried to symbolise to people back home that we need to stay united and be together in times like these," he said. "Just stand together. Be one. Everyone back home is paralysed by what happened but it was important for me to symbolise that even though I'm here in China, I'm able to feel the same emotions."
SwimNews talked to Dale Oen, his coach and the performance head of the team late this evening. The swimmer spoke about his training, the disruption of injury this year, his plans for London 2012 and why recognition can wait. We will bring you that report as soon as possible.
History in the making:
From the archive:
At Perth 1991 world titles, Norbert Rozsa (HUN) equalled the world record on 1:01.49 in heats before winning the crown in 1:01.45 over then Olympic champion Adrian Moorhouse (GBR). Moorhouse had reason to feel a little cursed by time and timing: he clocked 1:01.49 three times, the last at London in July 1990 in a race in which Rozsa set a best time of 1:02.93. The world championships would have been held that month had it not been for the fact that they were moved to January 1991 to coincide with the Australian summer in Perth.