The men’s 1500m freestyle was one of the most intriguing races at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia. This was in part due to the sudden withdrawal of China’s Sun Yang from the final. As the two-time two-time defending world champion in the 1500, Sun was the heavy favorite to win. After suffering what he called heart problems, though, and skipping the final, the event became wide-open. He had qualified as the third seed out of the heats, behind the USA’s Connor Jaeger.
Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri entered the meet as a potential challenger to Sun’s quest for a three-peat, but Sun’s absence eliminated a battle between the two of them.
Due to the suddenness of Sun’s withdrawal, there were just seven swimmers in the final.
Paltrinieri qualified first out of the heats. However, it was Canada’s Ryan Cochrane who set the tone at the start of the final, going out under world record pace.
Cochrane led for a third of the race, but Paltrinieri began to catch up to him, taking over the lead at 500 meters. He continued to build his lead over the next 500, while Jaeger overtook Cochrane for the second position.
For a while it looked like Jaeger might challenge Paltrinieri. He brought it home hard in the final 100, but there was no stopping Paltrinieri. He won in a time of 14:39.67, while Jaeger finished second in a time of 14:41.20, a personal best by 6 seconds. Cochrane managed to hold on for the bronze in 14:51.08.
This win marked Paltrinieri’s first-ever world title. He went on to win the 1500 again at both the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the 2017 World Championships in Budapest.