There was plenty of talk that the recent Short Course World Championships in Hangzhou would be the final competition for Brazilian legend Cesar Cielo. Though he hadn’t explicitly come out and said he would hang up the suit after the meet, he had hinted at it.
Now 31 years old, it’s been about four years since Cielo was swimming at the top of his game. After pulling out of the 2015 World Championships mid-competition due to a nagging shoulder injury, he missed qualifying for his home Olympic Games in 2016.
However, he proved he’s still competitive with the best in the world at the 2017 World Championships, making the final in the 50 free and winning silver on Brazil’s 4×100 free relay, and he added a pair of bronze medals over the last week in Hangzhou.
He had splits of 21.02 and 46.34 respectively as the Brazilians took 3rd in both the men’s 4×50 medley and 4×100 free relays, and he also placed 7th individually in the 50 free and had two other sub-21 freestyle splits.
Moving forward, he’s going to give himself some time before he makes a decision on retirement.
In an interview with GloboEsporte.com, Cielo said in a translated quote (on looming retirement): “It’s the most difficult period of my career, in that respect. Imagine my life outside the pool daily. Now it’s even hard to talk. I do not know what weekend is since I was 13 because I work out from Monday to Saturday. The whole family is together because of swimming. The sport is part of the people. It’s hard to imagine setting this aside”.
“I do not want to be dependent on race or talent alone, I want to work the way I believe, the way I’ve done it before. So I’ll see next year if I go back to training or if this one, in fact, was my last World Championships”.
“I’m satisfied with what I won this year. It was a tough year because the World (Championship) was only in December. So when we started the season in January I knew it would be a long year to get here. I am satisfied. Now I want to give my head time, I want to see if I miss the pool. By the middle of January, if I do not miss it, or if I feel it, that’s when I’ll actually define what I’m going to do in relation to the high-performance sport in my life. But regardless of what I decide there, in relation to the result I have been feeling more satisfied. For a long time I fought with my career, I fought with the pool, ups and downs in this relationship”, said Cielo.
If Cielo has in fact raced in his last major competition, he retires as the fastest man in history in both the 50 and 100 freestyle (LCM). He set both records in 2009 during the super-suit era, where records fell left and right due to advancements made in suit technology. The tech suits were banned at the beginning of 2010, and Cielo himself called for all of the records done in the suits to be scrapped.
His rise to the top came rapidly. In 2007 he really burst onto the scene, placing 6th and 4th respectively in the 50 and 100 freestyles at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, and then followed up with three gold medals at the Pan Am Games.
2008 was really his coming out party, as he tied American legend Jason Lezak for bronze in the 100 free at the Olympic Games in Beijing, and then went on to win gold in the 50 free in an Olympic Record time of 21.30 (just .02 off the existing world record).
Then in ’09 he set both world records in the sprints, going 20.91 in the 50 and 46.91 in the 100, with the latter being done at the World Championships in Rome. He won both events there, his first two World titles, and he continued his sprint legacy at the 2011 and 2013 Championships, winning the 50 free and 50 fly at both.
In 2012, he won a third Olympic medal with a bronze in the 50 free.
While he ranks #1 all-time with his suited records in the sprint free events, he’s also been very fast in a textile suit. From the beginning of 2010 until now, he ranks 5th in the 50 free (21.32), 13th in the 100 free (47.84), and 6th in the 50 fly (22.76).
In addition to his three Olympic medals, he (potentially) retires with seven LC World Championship medals, six of them gold, and 12 SC World medals. His two medals won in Hangzhou put him past Gustavo Borges for the most SC World medals ever won by a Brazilian, as prior to the meet they were tied with ten. Between the Olympics, both World Championships, Pan Ams and Pan Pacs, Cielo has 33 medals, two shy of Borges’ 35 (using WUGs for Borges instead of Pan Pacs).
You can find full comments from Cielo on GloboEsporte.com here.