Unprecedented Chinese dominance in women’s swimming, Hungarian triumph in women’s water polo, two gold medals for Aleksandr Popov, Norbert Rózsa, Kieren Perkins and Gary Hall among men athletes, Zimbabwean gold in diving – it all happened in Rome, at the 7th FINA World Championships 23 years ago.
It was the first time that more than 100 nations took part in the FINA World Championships: to be exact, a total of 1400 athletes were welcomed in the Italian capital in September, 1994 – an increase by 250 athletes compared to the previous edition in Perth – due to women’s water polo being included for the first time (with 12 teams) and the closeness and charm of Rome.
China finished on the top of the final medal table for the first time with a great advantage. Chinese athletes gathered in total 16 gold, 10 silver and 2 bronze medals, ahead of the second placed Americans (7-10-8) and the Russians (5-7-5). 21 nations earned at least one medal in Rome, the Hungarian delegation finished on the 5th place of the overall ranking with 3 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze medals.
Diving – Zimbabwean triumph, first gold for Sautin
Zimbabwean athletes have earnt a total of four gold medals in the history of the FINA World Championship. Swimmer Kirsty Coventry holds three of these (two golds from Montreal 2005 and one from 2009 Rome). The fourth one was won in Rome by Evan Stewart, the diver who triumphed the in 1m event overtaking his Chinese and American rivals.
The Chinese won all three women’s events, and captured a gold in the men’s field, too. Russian legend, Dmitry Sautin became a World Champion for the first time by winning the 10m event, and clinched silver over 3m. Over the years to follow Sautin earned four more World golds and had one of the most outstanding careers in sporting history: the Russian diver won his first Olympic medal in 1992 and the last one in Beijing, 16 years later!
Open water swimming – three Australian medals
Canadian Greg Streppel and Australian Melissa Cunnunigham won the 25km event in Rome, but Australian swimmers were more successful in Italy as the silver of the men’s and bronze of the women’s events went to them as well. Rita Kovács from Hungary won a silver medal.
Synchro – The Americans on top
The United States dominated the discipline: all three gold medals went to them, Becky Dyoren-Lancer tripled as finished the first position in solo, in duet and in team event, too. Two years later, in 1996 she was the member of the winner team at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. Becky Dyroen-Lancer was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2004.
Water polo – Hungarian and Italian golds
In the men’s field home-team Italy dominated; the Settebello won all games in the tournament (their only tough game was against Hungary which ended with a fight in the pool). In the final they defeated Spain by no less than five goals. The current head coach of the Italian national team, Alessandro Campagna was member of the 1994 squad, so was Giuseppe Porzio, who is now head coach of Canada.
Hungary triumphed in the women’s tournament by beating Italy in the semi-final, then the United States in the final.
Swimming – doubling classes
12 out of the 16 women’s events were won by the Chinese, including the three relays. Le Jingyi herself won four gold medals alone (50 and 100m freestyle and 4x100m freestlye and medley relays).
Winner of the 100m and 200m butterfly event, Liu Limin gained another gold with the medley relay team, Lü Bin collected three golds, while He Cihong - who beat Krisztina Egerszegi over 200m backstroke - took the 100m gold.
Australian swimmer, Samantha Riley became a World Champion over both 100 and in 200m breaststroke. American Janet Evans (800m freestyle) and a 16-year-old German won gold among the women in Rome. Who was she? Franziska van Almsick, one of the most famous and spectacular swimmer of the 90’s.
Women’s final of the 200m freestyle:
Women’s final of the 200m backstroke:
In the men’s field, the results were much more colourful with eight different nations winning gold in Rome.
Russian legend Alexander Popov became a World Champion in the 50 and in 100m freestyle events ahead of American Gary Hall (Popov also won two silvers in relay events). One of the greatest swimmers in history won these two events two years before at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, and then he held these titles in Atlanta, Popov retired from the discipline in 2005.
Men’s final 100m freestyle:
Hungarian Norbert Rózsa (100 and 200m breaststroke), Australian Kieren Perkins (400 and 1500m freestyle) also won two gold medals and two Finnish triumphs were born as well, Antti Kasvio (200m freestyle) and Jani Sievinen took them.
Martin Lopez Zuberro (100m backstroke) pleased the Spanish fans, Vladimir Selkov (200m backstroke) and Denis Pankratov (200m butterfly) collected golds for Russia, Rafal Szukala made history for Poland, Tom Dolan earned a gold for the United States while the Swedish relay (4x200m freestyle) also became World Champion.
Men’s final 200m freestyle:
Men’s final 100m breaststroke: