It’s hard to categorize 2013 as a breakout year for a swimmer who already holds a wealth of international medals including a pair of Olympic silvers. But for Australian Christian Sprenger, the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona have to qualify as a breakout meet, if only for the fact that Sprenger moved from silver to gold, leapfrogging the fastest breaststroker in world history to do so.
After taking home silver at the London Olympics behind world record-setter Cameron Van der Burgh, it might have looked as if Sprenger would forever be a great swimmer relegated to silver status. Van der Burgh was younger, improving rapidly and looked like the consensus best sprint breaststroker in the world.
But Sprenger made 2013 a year to change that perception. At 27 years old, he upset Van der Burgh in the marquee 100 breaststroke matchup at Worlds, going a new lifetime-best 58.79 to put himself within just three tenths of Van der Burgh’s world record.
And he almost made it a double upset – Sprenger pushed Van der Burgh wire to wire in the 50 breast, another event in which the South African holds the world mark. Sprenger’s effort wasn’t quite enough for another gold, but he did swim the fastest sprint breaststroker in history to within one one-hundredth of a second, set new Australian and Oceanian records and now sits just a tenth back of the world mark.
Sprenger also broke Australian and Oceanian records in the short course 50 (26.24) and 100 breaststroke (57.14) at various World Cup events this year.
Sprenger will be 30 by the time the next Olympics roll around, so while he may not have a chance to upend Van der Burgh on that platform in 2016, one thing is clear: 2013 was a golden year for Christian Sprenger.
The Australian record book in the 400 IM was rewritten in 2013 by Thomas Fraser-Holmes, who broke the national record in both the short course and long course versions of the event over the course of one calendar year.
James Magnussen turned a dreadful 2012 season into a successful 2013 campaign as the Australian sprinter won gold at the World Championships in Barcelona in the 100 freestyle as well as silver in the 4 x 100 medley relay.
Kenneth To joined Fraser-Holmes in amending the IM records, setting new Oceanian records in both the short course 100 and 200 IMs at World Cup events over the fall.