2023 Swammy Awards: Oceanian Male Swimmer of the Year – Sam Short

See all of our 2023 Swammy Awards here.

2023 OCEANIAN MALE SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: SAM SHORT, AUSTRALIA

The 2023 Oceanian Male Swimmer of the Year Swammy award goes to Sam Short of Australia. Short, 20, had a big international breakthrough in 2023 by garnering medals in each of the three distance freestyle pool events in Fukuoka. Short, who trains under the tutelage of Damien Jones at Rackley, broke out on the international scene last year with a medal from Worlds (4×200 free relay) and multiple medals at the Commonwealth Games (including 1500 free gold) – but made a significantly bigger leap in 2023. Short was also the winner of our 2023 award for Breakout Swimmer of the Year, and you can read about that here.

Since 2017, the Australian distance freestyle realm has lacked a budding superstar like they’ve had in the past (Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Kieren Perkins, Mack Horton, etc;), but they clearly found a star in the making this year. Given the rich history of Australian men’s distance freestyle, Short is chasing in the shadows of legends. He did so this year in style, culminating in a 400 free world title and a legendary Australian record in the 800 free.

An early sign of Short’s incredible year to come was his 400 freestyle at the 2023 Australian Swimming Championships in April. It was his first event of the meet, and he stopped the clock in 3:42.46 to defeat defending World Champion Elijah Winnington by just under four seconds. It was a massive best time for Short, who entered the competition with a best of 3:44.34. He also posted a massive best time of 7:42.96 in the 800 free, a near best time of 1:47.84 in the 200, and a sub-15 effort of 14:58.90 in the 1500.

Heading into the Australian World Championship Trials, one of the most anticipated races of night one was the battle between Short and the defending World Champ Winnington. The two delivered, touching just a tenth apart at the finish of the race. Short took the race out aggressively, turning through the 100 in 53.66 before hitting the 200 in 1:50.11. Winnington stayed within three tenths at the 200, but Short built up about a half second lead by the 350. Winnington out-split him by four tenths on the final length, with Short (3:43.38) getting the touch over Winnington (3:43.48). While his time was shy of the 3:42.48 from a few months prior, it showcased that he is able to perform under pressure in a tight race (being the one with the world leading time).

Short went on to win two more races at the Australian Trials, both in personal best times. He took the 800 in 7:40.39 and the 1500 in 14:46.67. His time in the 800 made him the third fastest Aussie ever in the event, only sitting behind legends Hackett and Thorpe. He entered the World Championships as a definitive medal favorite in the 400, with a strong medal possibility in the 800 as well.

He ultimately delivered in Fukuoka, ripping the fastest time in the world in the heats of the 400 on day one (3:42.44) before taking the world title in a massive best time of 3:40.68. He had a close battle with Tunisia’s defending Olympic Champion Ahmed Hafnaoui down the backstretch of the race, but Short ultimately clipped him at the finish by just 0.02. The swim from Short was also the fastest time in the event since the London 2012 Olympic Games. The performances by both Short and Hafnaoui rocketed them up into top five performers of all-time, with Short just 0.60 shy of Thorpe’s legendary Australian record:

Top 5 Men’s LCM 400 Freestyle Performers of All-Time:

  1. Paul Beidermann (GER) – 3:40.07 (2009)
  2. Ian Thorpe (AUS) – 3:40.08 (2002)
  3. Sun Yang (CHN) – 3:40.14 (2012)
  4. Sam Short (AUS) – 3:40.68 (2023) 
  5. Ahmed Hafnaoui (TUN) – 3:40.70 (2023)

Short and Hafnaoui renewed their new rivalry a few days later in the 800 free, where Hafnaoui got the better of Short. They both obliterated their previous best times, as Hafnaoui took the win in 7:37.00 while Short grabbed silver in 7:37.76. The time was a best time by over 2.5 seconds, and broke Grant Hackett’s 18-year-old Aussie record of 7:38.65 in the process. Hafnaoui and Short became the third and fourth fastest performers in history with their performances, respectively:

Top 5 Men’s LCM 800 Freestyle Performers of All-Time:

  1. Zhang Lin (CHN) – 7:32.12 (2009)
  2. Oussama Mellouli (TUN) – 7:35.27 (2009)
  3. Ahmed Hafnaoui (TUN) – 7:37.00 (2023)
  4. Sam Short (AUS) – 7:37.76 (2023)
  5. Sun Yang (CHN) – 7:38.57 (2011)

Short ended his Fukuoka campaign with a third medal in the 1500 free, dropping a time of 14:37.28 for a near ten second best time. The race was dominated by Hafnaoui and American Bobby Finke for the final 500 meters of the race (both clocking 14:31s at the finish), but Short stayed close through the first 1,000 meters of the race. With this medal, he earned one of each color in Fukuoka – gold in the 400, silver in the 800, and this bronze in the 1500. It also means he left Fukuoka with a medal in each of his individual events, after finishing 9th in the 800 and 14th in the 1500 at the Budapest World Championships a year prior.

Short in 2023, compared to the other Aussie distance freestyle legends:

Top 5 Australian Men’s 400 LCM Freestyle Performers of All-Time:

  1. Ian Thorpe – 3:40.08 (2002)
  2. Sam Short – 3:40.68 (2023)
  3. Elijah Winnington – 3:41.22 (2022)
  4. Mack Horton – 3:41.55 (2016)
  5. Grant Hackett – 3:42.51 (2001)

Top 5 Australian Men’s 800 LCM Freestyle Performers of All-Time:

  1. Sam Short – 7:37.76 (2023)
  2. Grant Hackett – 7:38.65 (2005)
  3. Ian Thorpe – 7:39.16 (2001)
  4. Jack McLoughlin – 7:42.51 (2021)
  5. Mack Horton – 7:44.02 (2015)

Top 5 Australian Men’s 1500 LCM Freestyle Performers of All-Time: 

  1. Grant Hackett – 14:34.56 (2001)
  2. Sam Short – 14:37.28 (2023)
  3. Mack Horton – 14:39.54 (2016)
  4. Kieren Perkins – 14:41.66 (1994)
  5. Jack McLoughlin – 14:47.09 (2018)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kyle Chalmers (AUS) – Chalmers, the man of consistency in the 100 freestyle, took his first world title in the LCM version of the event in Fukuoka. He stopped the clock in 47.15, just off his best time in the event. He left the meet with five total medals (3 gold & 2 bronze), including helping Team Australia to a world record in the mixed 4×100 freestyle relay. Chalmers also anchored the Aussie men to a win in the 4×100 free relay on the first night, their first title in the event in over a decade.
  • Cameron McEvoy (AUS) – McEvoy dominated the men’s 50 freestyle final in Fukuoka, hitting the wall in a time of 21.06. His performance slots him in as the fourth fastest of all-time, and won him the event by 0.51. McEvoy entered the year with a best time of 21.44, from 2016, so he undercut that mark by 0.38 in 2023 alone. The 50 free was his only final of the meet, as he did not advance out of the heats in the 50 fly (23.40 – 18th place). McEvoy was awarded the 2023 Swammy for Comeback Swimmer of the Year, and you can read more about it here.

Past Winners:

 

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STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
4 months ago

He’s talented, hardworking and has a good head on his shoulders. Given his talent and trajectory I think he’ll break the world record in the 400 in Paris. I think he has said it will take a world record to win it. I also slightly favour him in the 800 but with Hafnaoui, Finke, Wiffen and Maartens and maybe others, anything can happen. It could well be the best men’s race in Paris.

Stewie Griffin
Reply to  STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
4 months ago

I wonder if he’s the shortest men’s 400 free worlds gold medalist ever.

Mark69
Reply to  Stewie Griffin
4 months ago

He is Short.

Stewie Griffin
4 months ago

Well deserved

Andrew
4 months ago

Seems pretty reasonable. Always an argument to be made for the usual relay heroics from Chalmers though

Sam
Reply to  Andrew
4 months ago

Any truth to the rumour that Kyle had ankle surgery this year?