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M100 Back: Shared Historic Gold For Gaul

Jul 26, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 3 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

Men's 100m backstroke

French teammates Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius claimed an historic joint gold for Gaul, both on 52.76, their shared achievement a first in the history of world championships. The bronze to Ryosuke Irie (JPN) in 52.98.

Lacourt, world No1 with blistering times in the 50m and 100m last year and looking more lean than he did when claiming two European backstroke titles in Budapest,  was out the quickest - but only just, 25.26 to 25.34 for Stravius. The edge of one going out was matched by the edge of the other coming back. Snap.

The French firsts: the first world title for any French man in any event at world titles; France has never had a medal in the event before; no one nation has ever shared gold in any event in the history of the championships since they began in 1973; no backstroke crown has ever been shared, men or women at world long-course level.

Irie left his challenge too late to gatecrash the French party: on 25.98 at the turn he found himself in 7th, and while 27.00 on the way back to base was the swiftest in the final and half a second better than the gladiators of Gaul, a 52.98 conclusion left him 0.22sec shy of keeping the crown in Japanese hands, after Junya Koga, who missed the cut for semis here in Shanghai, had won in 2009.

Between Nick Thoman (USA), just 0.03sec shy of the podium on 53.01, and Gareth Kean (NZL), last in on 53.50, came David Plummer (USA), Liam Tancock (GBR), the 50m world champion of 2009 who was out third in 25.55, and Helge Meeuw (GER).

Lacourt, coached by Romain Barnier at Marseilles, said: "Its not a split title. Its two titles… there's nothing to regret here. Each of us is the world champion, we are not both half a world champion.

Stravius said that  he had arrived in Shanghai confident of making a step up because of the work he had bene doing with coach Michel Chrétien at Amiens. "It's really good," the new champion said of his relationship with his coach. "We have respect for each other. Right now, I'm thinking of my coach: he has confidence in me and me in him."

The result: 

  • =1.Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius (both FRA) 52.76sec
  • 3. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 52.98
  • 4. Nicholas Thoman (USA) 53.01
  • 5. David Plummer (USA) 53.04
  • 6. Liam Tancock (GBR) 53.25
  • 7. Helge Meeuw (GER) 53.28
  • 8. Gareth Kean (NZL) 53.50

The only other time that men shared gold in a world-title battle at the FINA showcase event was back in 2007, when Filippo Magnini (ITA) retained the 100m freestyle but found himself matched by Brent Hayden (CAN).

Backstroke has been good to the French: the stroke also delivered their first ever women's world title, back in 1998, when Roxana Maracineanu won the 200m crown. 

Lacourt and Stravius put an arm round each other on the podium, linked forever by a peak conquered together. They had the kind of smile on their faces you see in maternity wards when new mum and dads peer down at a new arrival.

The splits compared:

  • 2007: 25.80; 52.98 Aaron Peirsol (USA) Melbourne 
  • 2009: 25.36; 52.26 Junya Koga (JPN) Rome 
  • 2011: 25.26; 52.76 Camille Lacourt; 25.34; 52.76 Jeremy Stravius (both FRA) Shanghai

History in the making:


  • WR (all suits): 51.94 Aaron Peirsol (USA) Indianapolis 2009
  • WR (textile):   52.11 Camille Lacourt (FRA) Budapest 2010
  • First man inside 54:0: Jeff Rouse (USA) 53.93 Edomnton, August 25, 1991  
  • First man inside 53.0: Aaron Peirsol (USA) 52.98 Melbourne March 27, 2007

World-class stats:

  • World Record wins: Peirsol, 2007
  • Title retained: Roland Matthes (GDR); Peirsol, twice
  • Title shared: Lacourt, Stravius (FRA), Shanghai 2011
  • Biggest margin: Matthes beat Mike Stamm (USA) by 1.30sec in 1973
  • Closest shave: Dirk Richter (GDR) beat Rick Carey (USA) by 0.06sec in 1982

From the archive:

Aaron Peirsol (USA) is the most successful backstroke swimmer in world-championship history. An Olympic silver medallist at 17 over 200m in 2000, he claimed the 100m world three times (2003, 2005, 2007) and the 200m crown four times (2001, 2003, 2005, 2009). In between he won the Olympic 100m title twice (2004, 2008) and the 200m title in 2004. In 2010, Peirsol celebrated what would be a perfect swansong: gold in the 100m at the Pan Pacific Championships held in the Irvine, California, pool he was nurtured in.

In Shanghai with his sponsor Arena, the 28-year-old said the drive to swim competitively had gone for him. There would be no comeback. "It's always right now. It's always a year out from the Olympics people come back. I made sure that when I moved on, I had no questions or doubts and it's the last thing that keeps me up at night. I can sit up here and enjoy it and not feel like I belong down there [on deck]. I feel like I did that. There are other things in my life that I want to do and you have to move on at some point." Peirsol is planning to begin postgraduate study at university later this year and is in no rush, he said, to find they new direction in his life while still "decompressing" after a lifetime in the race pool. "I am in no hurry to find what it is that I want to devote as much time into that I devoted to swimming," he said. "I really don't need that right now. I am staying busy, doing what I don't know but that's really what I need right now. I'm really learning how to live without swimming."