2013 FINA World Championships: By the Numbers

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

The 15th FINA World Championships closed a few days ago, and while some swimmers have returned home, and others have gone on to Eindhoven to compete in the FINA World Cup series, the rest of us are left to wonder — but what did it all mean, man?

We’ve teamed with Christer Magnusson of SCMSOM.SE to take reams of data and boil it down into some digestible numbers. The conclusion:

Overall, swimming in Barcelona – which hosted Worlds for the second time in 10 years – was fast. Faster than Shanghai in 2011, and if we are going strictly by national records, it was faster than London.

World Championships By the Numbers:

Number of Athletes: 2,293

Countries Represented: 181

Attendance: 267,000

World records: 6

World championship records: 9

National records: 202

Number of Volunteers: 2,500

Number of Volunteers Who Found Jessica Hardy’s Misplaced Engagement Ring: 1

Host Country Performs Well

The Spaniards swam fast in front of their hometown crowd, easily leading the national record table by breaking 16 National Records over the course of swimming competition. They won 4 medals in swimming (and another ten in other events, giving them a total exceeding that of the Germans, Italians, and even the French).

The Russians, who were expected to perform well based on some of their blistering performances at World University Games (which they also hosted), at least somewhat fulfilled expectations by setting 10 National records. The Americans and Canadians each posted 6 new national marks, with the Aussies setting three.

Faster Than Shanghai

Post-Olympic years are always a bit of a crap-shoot – the Olympians and veterans usually take some time off, while the athletes who just missed their respective National teams the year before train with a chip on their shoulder. But this year Worlds was a quick meet, in what some would consider on “off” year, with more national records being broken than there were in London last year.

Here are how things went down compared to the past couple World Champs (I only included Rome because, well, the numbers are hilarious).

Barcelona 2013 Shanghai 2011 Rome 2009

National Records 202 168 785

American Records 5 6 31

World Champ Records 9 2 105

World Records 6 2 43

To give you an idea of the freakish nature of the Rome meet, the World Championship record for the 50m breaststroke was broken no fewer than 8 times by 4 different athletes.

Swimmers Improved on Entry Times 40% of the Time, Every Time

Best times are fun. Heck, they are downright super. While not every swimmer is competing for a gold medal or world record, each and every one of them do want to break their best times.

Honduras led this category in Barcelona, going for 8 for 8. Denmark was right behind them with 90% of their swimmers improving on their entry times. (The average from all entries was 40%.)

Other notables:

Venezuela 11/16 (69%)

Czech Republic 13/22 (59%)

USA 34/68 (50%)

South Africa 16/32 (50%)

China 19/55 (35%)

Australia 17/52 (33%)

Canada 14/45 (31%)

Japan 10/46 (22%)

Germany 8/42 (19%)

Finals vs. Medals

As expected, the Americans were frequently found in finals, with 58 appearances in the top 8. The Aussies and Japanese were 2nd and 3rd, respectively, with 28 and 24 swimmers making it to the final evening swims.

Most noteworthy is Great Britain, who only got one medal out of 17 finalists (6%). The Germans, who didn’t have a great meet overall – and are doing some soul searching of their own – also won one medal via 10 finalists.

Here is how the top 17 countries did in terms of winning medals when given a lane–

FINALS

MEDALS

%

USA

58

29

50

AUS

28

13

46

JPN

24

6

25

CHN

22

9

41

FRA

18

9

50

GBR

17

1

6

HUN

16

5

32

RUS

15

8

53

ESP

13

4

31

BRA

12

5

42

ITA

12

2

17

CAN

11

3

27

GER

10

1

10

SWE

9

2

22

DEN

8

4

50

NED

7

4

57

RSA

7

5

71

52
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Lane Four
8 years ago

To be honest, I am still astounded that the American team did so well. Truthfully, based off of their performances from the trials, I was hoping for maybe 20 medals, but to come home with 29 was beyond my wildest expectations….and this was without Phelps. With the young guns ready to make a name and the veterans holding onto their places, I absolutely cannot wait for Kazan. With regards to Australia, this is just a glitch in their national achievements. There is no way that they are going to remain so far behind the USA. There is too much talent in the land down under. With their young men and women ready to make a name for themselves, Rio will… Read more »

Reply to  Lane Four
8 years ago

One word…..Japan. I’m awed by their talent. Daiya Seto’s 400 IM gave me whiplash. Didnt see that coming…which is why I love swimming.

SwimFanFinland
Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
8 years ago

Yes, Japanese deserve some recognition for their achievements. The reason they go often unnoticed may be the fact that they have struggled to win golds.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  Lane Four
8 years ago

I am not at all astounded by the Usa results at all ! they have great trianing programms and a lot of motivation coming to big meets . Japanese as Mel mentioned are pretty doing great ! Australia got a lot of young talents but it needs probably more time to shine for them ….Germany is in big trouble since 2009 somehow . One medal ???

aswimfan
Reply to  Lane Four
8 years ago

I don’t think it’s a glitch in Australia’s performance.

1. It’s an improvement after London’s disaster.
2. Being such a small country, Australia will always have to be satisfied and will do very well with around 10-15 medals and a 3-4 golds.
3. Only during exceptional years where Australia punch above its weight when it has two or more superstars, such as in the 1956-1960 where they had Fraser, Rose, Crapp, the Konrads etc or 2000-2008 where they had Thorpe, Hackett, trickett, Henry, Jones, Schipper. Or when they had Gould.
4. Unlike a niche sport (such as skiing where small countries such as austria can do very well and dominate), swimming is truly a global sport, so… Read more »

mcgillrocks
Reply to  aswimfan
8 years ago

we are still a niche sport. even in the United states, the most dominant swimming force on the planet (29 medals :] ) we are a niche sport. everyone watches american football and basketball in the US

Heck I watch more football than swimming. My friends watch more football, they fill out Fantasy football teams instead of Swimswam Pick’em. My coaches watch football, and in one memorable case refused to gives splits to one swimmer because he was on the wrong side of a heated rivalry

aswimfan
Reply to  mcgillrocks
8 years ago

When I meant by not a niche sport is that almost anyone in this world can always swim, while very few would be able or have environment/facility to sky or bobsled.

And just because swimming is not as popular as american football in the USA does not mean it is a niche sport.

SwimFanFinland
Reply to  mcgillrocks
8 years ago

Yep, ASwimFan explained it correctly.

It’s same in Finland. Almost everybody follows ice hockey. In the USA everybody watch American football but it doesn’t transform American football or ice hockey into a global sport. No one follows American football in Finland. in Europe? I doubt. In Asia? I don’t know. Elsewhere, I don’t know.

Swimming is a global sport even it’s a much smaller sport than American football in financial terms etc. Our problem in swimming is that we are failing to take advantage of that fact that swimming is so well covered around the world. That’s our common problem which we must overcome – together.

8 years ago

it was definitely an exciting venue in Barcelona. One small correction: There is no such thing as Czechoslovakia for over 20 years now. It is the Czech Republic 🙂

whoknows
8 years ago

There were so many TEAM USA swimmers who reduced their training in 2013… yet. being the true competitors that they are, when they got up on the blocks… they RACED!… they gave it their best shot! There are many hungry teenagers looking for their opportunity to get their chance… the veterans will have to buckle down in 2014 and beyond!

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  whoknows
8 years ago

ohhhh Yes ! the young guns are hungry for sure …..hehehe

aswimfan
Reply to  whoknows
8 years ago

Not only team USA, but in the year right after olympics, many swimmers from all countries also reduced their training.

Philip Johnson
8 years ago

bottom line, the women waaaay outperformed the men on every level, and i’m sure the statistics are skewed by that fact.

Rafael
Reply to  Philip Johnson
8 years ago

Ledecky and Missy filled the void of Phelps..

But if we check by Gender, the US women got better but the man really lost some ground..

Philip Johnson
8 years ago

I was too surprised by the US’s performance, especially with the absence of Phelps. Keep an eye on them in the future, but also for Australia. And the European women were absolutely dominate!

usswimFan
Reply to  Philip Johnson
8 years ago

Agreed about the Euro women dominating in the individual events, specifically sprint free, fly, IM and breast…but I’m still proud of our girls. 3 relay golds…not too shabby. From a depth standpoint, if Schmitt, Soni and Vollmer get back to last year’s form, we’ll be in even better shape on the medal stand. Comparing the London 2012 vs Barcelona 2013 results shows that we aren’t too far behind in our medal count, even with last year’s top medalists taking a year off. As mentioned, this meet was Franklin and Ledecky’s show. Kudos to both of them.

Aigues
8 years ago

A word for Hungary, which have the best ratio of finals per capita and probably the second ratio of medals, behind Denmark. This number of finals is quite impressive (and Hosszu skipped one if I remember well), more than Canada, more than Brazil, more than Russia!

Reply to  Aigues
8 years ago

This doesn’t make sense at all. Trinidad has a better medals per capita ratio than both Denmark and Hungary. Lithuania also has a better one than Hungary.

Reply to  Lennart van Haaften
8 years ago

I put that a bit strongly, sorry for that. Your post does make quite some sense but not the maximum amount.;)

aswimfan
Reply to  Aigues
8 years ago

Also, Hungary’s (and Denmark) top swimmers had the advantage of not having to swimming relays while top swimmers from other countries do.

Aigues
Reply to  Aigues
8 years ago

You’re right. I talked about medals too but my first idea is to focus on finals, because it involves larger numbers… it is more meaningful to calculate such a ratio on finals, because even Andorra could have a medal winner one day, but they will never have 10 finals.

Hungary is surrounded in the finals ranking (and even in the official medals table) by countries at least 4 times bigger, that’s what I wanted to point out. It shows the importance of having a swimming tradition even in today’s globalized sport.

aswimfan
Reply to  Aigues
8 years ago

hungary (and denmark) is skewed because they only sent swimmers who they thought have big chances to medal. If only USA send Ledecky, franklin, lochte and grevers, their ratio would trash any other countries too.

Aigues
Reply to  aswimfan
8 years ago

No I was not speaking about this ratio, but about the ratio “finals per inhabitants of the country”, in other words : who takes the best of its overall potential in swimming.

James
8 years ago

I am just curious…is there a particular reason why the US never gets to host the WC? 15th time…and as it stands the next 4 games are already locked in with other locations.

beachmouse
Reply to  James
8 years ago

It’s an extremely expensive event to host, and you can’t find a good loction willing to spend that much money. After they lost out in 2005 to Montreal (which went on to have its own money troubles that were bad enough the head of the organizing committee committed suicide) Long Beach was pretty frank about how much money the city would have been out if they had won, and that’s probably scared other US bidders.

The countries that do hold the championships tend to have huge state (or in Russia’s case oil company) backing. Or like Rome 2009, effectively have the event run by the mafia- the corruption trials caused by meet-related building projects went on for years. … Read more »

aswimfan
Reply to  beachmouse
8 years ago

I put the blame on USASwimming. They could have taken the lead, be more proactive, work together with cities and get sponsors etc.

SwimFanFinland
Reply to  beachmouse
8 years ago

I’d argue that not a single international meeting has never been arranged with a zero controversy anywhere in the world. There is always people who are against such meetings. I’m not blaming them. On the other hand, if you must have 95 % backing for your bid before filing it, then we’re not going to see international meetings anymore in any sports.

I’m convinced current hosts are happy to host their polite American guests who are always capable of executing at high level but it really is unusual that such a powerhouse in swimming has never held the meeting before. As ASwimFan pointed out earlier when we have this conversation, the USA has hosted the world championships in gymnastics many… Read more »

beachmouse
Reply to  SwimFanFinland
8 years ago

Gymnastics is cheap to host because it’s effectively a one arena event + a little bit of overflow convention space for warm-up purposes. Same goes for swimming Short Course Worlds, which were held in Indianapolis a few years back.

The big problem with a figure skating Worlds is trying to schedule around professional ice hockey leagues because you’ve got to do the ice differently (markings, temperature) and you pretty much take a sheet of ice out of commission for three weeks to go hockey-week of figure skating -hockey

C Martin
Reply to  James
8 years ago

I don’t think the general population is as fond of swimming as a sport to host an international-level meet. Jump ahead to 2024, where Boston may place a bid for the Olympics, and no one around here wants them. Not a single body. It would be cool to watch them close to home, but I think it’s much more logistical than just funding. Traffic, infrastructure, contracting, and lack of interest are the big reasons, to name a few. It’s sad that people don’t appreciate swimming and Olympic sports as much as other sports, it really is. But that’s the way it is. Lack of interest is killing our sport. Simple as that.

boknows34
8 years ago

Very poor meet for Germany.

C Martin
Reply to  boknows34
8 years ago

Open Water did well, though.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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