As the 2021 Mare Nostrum Tour moves through Canet, today we are going to take a look at the world records set during the history of this traditional series of swimming meets.
Mare Nostrum was established in 1994 with meets around the Mediterranean Sea – in fact, “Mare Nostrum” was a Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea. In almost 30 years, seven world records have been set in Monte Carlo, Canet and Barcelona. For several years, the Sette Colli Trophy in Rome was also included in the series, and it was the only meet where no world record was registered in the history of Mare Nostrum.
Instagram’s Swimming Stats page has published the complete list of world records. And some of them were legendary at the time they were set.
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The International Swimming Meeting of Monte Carlo was held beginning in 1984, and became one of the stops of Mare Nostrum in 1994. In that year, Russian Alexander Popov broke Matt Biondi’s six-year-old world record in men’s 100 freestyle in a time of 48.21, improving the previous standard by 0.21 seconds. To put that in perspective, only Biondi and Popov himself had cracked the 49-second barrier in the 100 freestyle beforehand. In that swim, Popov bettered his PB by 0.72sec. He never swam faster than that Monte Carlo swim until the end of his career, in 2004.
In 1995, two months before the European Aquatics Championships, Russian Denis Pankratov set another legendary world record during the Canet stop. He swam a 1:55.22 in the men’s 200 butterfly to break Mel Stewart’s world record from the 1991 World Championships. Pankratov would also break the 100 fly world record in the Euro Championships and would win the two events one year later, at the Atlanta Olympic Games.
In 1997, German Sandra Völker set the first world record officially recognized in the women’s 50 backstroke in long course meters. FINA started to recognize world records in stroke 50 events during the 90s, and Völker registered the new standard with a 29.00 in Monte Carlo. Two years later, also in Monte Carlo, she became the first swimmer to break the 29-second barrier with a 28.78.
In 2000, Dutchwoman Inge de Bruijn set an amazing 11 world records in long course meters, culminating with three world records and three gold medals at the Sydney Olympics. Her first world record that year was set in the Monte Carlo stop of the Mare Nostrum Tour, with a 25.83 in the women’s 50 butterfly, 0.46sec faster than Anna-Karin Kammerling previous record.
In 2003, Dmitri Komornikov broke the men’s 200 breast world record in Barcelona with a 2:09.52, 0.45sec faster than Kosuke Kitajima‘s previous standard. That record, however, wouldn’t last – one month later Kitajima took it back during the World Aquatics Championships, also in Barcelona.
As of today, the last world record set in the Mare Nostrum Tour was seen in 2007. Sweden’s Therese Alshammar won the 50 fly in Barcelona in 25.46, 0.11sec faster than Anna-Karin Kammerling’s five-year-old previous world record.
Curiously, Alshammar is making a return during the 2021 Mare Nostrum after being absent from swimming competitions since 2016. Her fellow compatriot Sarah Sjostrom is also making a comeback, after recovering from a broken elbow. Sjostrom almost broke world records during the Mare Nostrum in 2017, when she registered some of the fastest times in history in the 50 and 100 freestyle and the 50 and 100 butterfly in Monte Carlo, Canet, and Barcelona. In the 100 free, she was just 0.05sec off the world record, by then held by Australian Cate Campbell.
It is hard to expect world records from Alshammar and Sjostrom this week, or even from any other swimmer, especially during this pandemic time when several swimmers prefer to compete in their home countries. Hopefully in the next few years we will be able to see some of the best swimmers of the world breaking records again around the Mediterranean Sea.