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.
- 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.