Budapest 2022, Day 2 South America Recap: Santos Becomes Oldest Medalist Yet Again


Time is bound to catch up with 42-year-old Nicholas Santos at some point – just not at the 2022 World Championships. 

The ageless Brazilian wonder earned silver in the 50 fly behind Caeleb Dressel, making it four consecutive medals in the event – each time increasing the age record for oldest Worlds medalist. Santos was 35 when he won silver in 2015, 37 when he took silver in 2017, and 39 when he brought home a bronze in 2019. 

His 22.78 was just one-hundredth of a second ahead of Michael Andrew for the second Worlds in a row, though this time it didn’t keep the 23-year-old American off the podium. 

“I’m 42 years old,” said Santos, who was just .18 off his personal best. “It’s not so easy to stay here with these guys, especially Dressel. I’m really happy.”

“I like this pool,” Santos added. “It’s the best one for fast swims. I broke my (short course) world record here in Budapest in one of the World Cups, so I only have good memories. I think this is my last long course World Championships. Maybe I’ll compete in short course, but from now on, I’d like to focus on my private life, my five year-old son.”

The Sao Paulo native’s career has spanned the entire lifetime of some competitors half his age, such as 21-year-old Italian Thomas Ceccon, who placed 5th. More than two decades ago, Santos made his World Championships debut with a 30th-place finish in the 50 free. The sprint specialist’s 40th-place showing in the 50 fly at the 2003 World Championships wasn’t any better. But Santos has only gotten better with experience, a testament to his innovative training methods. In April, he threw down a 22.73, the fastest time in the world by nearly a half second at the time. 

“For me, I need to do a lot of weights to keep my mass,” said Santos, the reigning short course world champion in the 50 fly. “The volume in the water is really low and the intensity is really high. I can swim a 50 fast but a 100 fly or free long course is really hard. I can swim short course meters but it is really painful to stay training hard to be competing with these guys.”

Santos saved his energy for Sunday’s final, sneaking in as the eighth qualifier on Saturday night. His fourth medal in the 50 fly broke a tie with Ian Crocker for most all-time in the event.

“I’m feeling great right now,” Santos said. “Getting a medal is good. I’m really happy, tired as well. 22.7 is really good for the final. Last night I didn’t swim so fast, especially the technique or the stroke wasn’t the same as usual so now I get my 22.7 to get a medal.”

Medals Tables (South America)

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Brazil 0 1 1 2

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7 months ago

What’s his secret?

Reply to  Greg
7 months ago

He hasn’t burned out. In other sports it’s not uncommon to see athletes mid to high 30’s breaking WRs and such. Swimming is just so mentally/financially demanding its rare to see someone preform past 25-26

7 months ago

King! A real display of how far professionalism and discipline can lead you.

7 months ago

Wild to think there are pro guys younger than him that have been retired for nearly a decade and a half now

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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