2018 Swammy Awards: Euro Male Swimmer of the Year Kliment Kolesnikov

To see all of our 2018 Swammy Awards presented by TYR, click here. 

2018 European Male Swimmer of the Year: Kliment Kolesnikov, Russia

There is rarely a single dominant force in men’s swimming at the European Aquatics Championships. There are occasionally triple gold medalists (Florent Manaudou did that in 2014, and Laszlo Cseh in 2012), but rarely on the men’s side do swimmers amass medal counts like the Sarah Sjostroms of the world (4 individual golds in 2018).

That means that we must split hairs to determine who was the best European swimmer in a year where the Europeans mostly competed against Europeans. When it came down to the numbers, there were really two candidates who stood out among the rest: Adam Peaty, who won 2 individual golds and 4 total at the European Championships; and Kliment Kolesniikov, who won 2 individual golds, 3 golds in all, and 6 total medals at the European Championships.

Both swimmers broke World Records in the process, with Kolesnikov taking out the 50 backstroke and Peaty the 100 breaststroke. Peaty was the only male swimmer to break a World Record in 2018 in a long course event.

Peaty has won this award for each of the last two years, and there always has to be some casing because breaststroke training doesn’t offer the same natural spillover opportunities as do training in the other three strokes. To dethrone the king, it takes a big year, and Kolesnikov had the kind of year that any 18-year old can dream of.

Taking advantage of the many opportunities available in 2018, Kolesnikov’s year went something like this:

  • 2018 Youth Olympic Games – 6 golds, 1 silver
  • 2018 European Championships – 3 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze
  • 2018 World Short Course swimming Championships – 2 golds, 3 silvers, 2 bronze

Yes, Peaty was as good as ever in the sprint breaststrokes at the European Championships, controversially breaking his own World Record in the 100 breaststroke and winning by a second-and-a-half in front of a home crowd.

But if there were ever a year where those races weren’t quite enough, this is it. Not only did Kolesnikov amass a pile of medals at 3 big international championships and a World Record in the 50 back (24.00), he had at least 9 World Junior Record-breaking swims.

Peaty, meanwhile, showed some vulnerability when he lost the 50 breaststroke at the Commonwealth Games to South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh. He claims to have been training through that meet, also didn’t race at Short Course Worlds, calling short course swimming irrelevant in his world. For a swimmer who only races 2 individual events and 2 relays at big meets, the margins are much thinner, and losing one of his signature races at a big meet hurts Peaty’s resume for a ‘best of’ award.

In a year where the sport is splintered across big meets around the world, Kolesnikov went after a full pile of medals. When there’s no great global gathering to settle ‘best’ in the water, the willingness to attack so many meets and so many swims against so much different competition counts for a lot in our book.

Two great swimmers, standing well out ahead of their peers, but the teen had a season to remember, and for that, Kolesnikov is our European Male Swimmer of the Year for 2018.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Adam Peaty, Great Britain – Peaty had the single most-dominant swim of the European Championships by % margin of victory (his 100 breaststroke was 2.6% faster than runner-up James Wilby, 57.10-58.64). In total, he won 4 European Championship golds, 2 Commonwealth Games golds, and 2 Commonwealth Games silvers. He also became much more vocal in 2018, especially when it came to criticism of FINA and support of the ISL.
  • Duncan Scott, Great Britain – All Scott was missing to be in competition with the two above was a World Record. He took 3 golds and a silver at the 2018 European Championships, including a win in the 200 free; and added 6 total medals at the Commonwealth Games: 4 individuals, including a win in the 100 free. No Scottish athlete had before won even 5 medals at the same Commonwealth Games.

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Tammy Touchpad Error
3 years ago

How does Peaty not get this? Really? 57.10? Are we forgetting how dominant that is???

Reply to  Tammy Touchpad Error
3 years ago

You got downvoted but I have to say I agree. That performance is one for the history books and will be looked back on for many years but this is all just opinions and one opinion could be that doing the best 100 Breast of all time and the most dominant swim of the year is less impressive than winning loads of medals accross multiple meets throughout the year. I can see it both ways but I prefer the one moment of absolute perfection personally.

3 years ago

At least my honorable mention goes to Evgeny Rylov, World and European LC Champion in 200 back but also capable to show an incredible raw speed – both in back and in free – at SC Worlds, where he won every individual races swum (i.e. 50 and 200 back with great opponents) and was capable of great relay splits.

3 years ago

The documentary ICARUS was damaging to Russia’s sports integrity by having the head of the doping program reveal ALL Russian atheletes were on PEDS. Its difficult to believe any Russian athlete today, however, because this kid is so young, I am inclined to think/hope he might be clean. I’ll be extremely disappointed if he pees hot. He has been fun to watch. At his current trajectory, he wins gold and sets the WR in Tokyo with a :51 low.

Everyone should watch Icarus.

Reply to  Scribble
3 years ago

Well, RUSADA also just denied WADA access to their lab. I’m giving Kolesnikov the benefit of the doubt, but it’s possible Russia gets a blanket ban from the 2020 Olympics the way things are looking now

Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

IOC has also said that Russia has served their ban with 2018 Winter Olympics ban. IOC is also not going by McLaren report, but on their independent study. So more than likely Russia may get banned but WADA, but not by IOC.

samuel huntington
3 years ago

Kolesnikov’s 50 back world record was long course or short course?

samuel huntington
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

thanks, wasn’t sure

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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