FINA Extends Special Invitation to Nicholas Santos for World Championships

Caeleb Dressel

Brazilian swimmer Nicholas Santos has received a special FINA invite to participate in the 2019 World Aquatics Championships that will take place this summer in Gwangju, South Korea. In a letter sent to the presidents of the country’s regional federations, the Brazilian Confederation of Aquatic Sports (CBDA) informed the country’s swimming community that they had accepted the invite, and that Santos would be added to the team.

Brazil selected its World Championship team of 20 based only on results of Olympic events, and the 39-year old Santos, who specializes in the 50 meter fly, was not chosen in those events. That’s in spite of swimming a 22.77 at the Brazilian Championships (Maria Lenk Trophy) that ranked him 2nd in the world at the time (he now ranks #1).

2018-2019 LCM MEN 50 FLY

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However, in recognition of Santos’ high potential for a medal (and likely his continued and consistent participation in major FINA events like the World Cup Series and FINA Champions Series), FINA reached out to the CBDA via email to request that the CBDA add Santos to their roster.

“Following the excellent performance of the swimmer at the FINA Champions Swim Series 2019, FINA has the pleasure of inviting Mr. Santos to take part at the FINA World Championships to be held in Gwangju in July 2019.

Accordingly, we would appreciate it very much if CBDA enters Mr. Santos taking into account, of course, the FINA Rules on the numbers of swimmers with A & B times.

Thank you.

On the other side, we took note of the financial conditions for Mr. Santos. Still, please nonte that arrangements will be made so he stays together with the rest of the Brazilian Swimming designation.”

The letter is signed by Cornel Marculescu, the Executive Director of FINA.

The CBDA, in explaining its decision, says that it, “in condition of affiliation to FINA, has the highest regard for the decisions issued by (FINA), always seeking to be in accordance with the resolutions and determinations published by it.”

The key for the CBDA is that the full cost of Santos’ participation will be borne by FINA and Santos’ sponsors. The CBDA is under extreme financial pressure after the fallout from a massive corruption scandal that resulted in charges being filed against the long-time head of the CBDA Coarcy Nunes.

To make room for Santos, the CBDA had to adjust their roster: specifically, Gabriel Santos (no relation) withdrew from the 50 fly, in which he had been entered. The CBDA says that this withdrawal was coincidental: Gabriel Santos will instead focus on the prelims of the 400 free relay, which falls in the same session as prelims of the 50 fly. The semi-finals of the 50 fly also falls in the same session as finals of the 400 free, and the Brazilian men have a chance at medaling in the 400 free relay.

Nicholas Santos has proven ageless, swimming his best times in the 50 fly late into his 30s. He won silver medals in the event at both the 2015 and 2017 editions of the World Championships, and adds to that a total of 10 Short Course World Championship medals.

He also won the 50 fly at all 3 stops of the 2019 FINA Champions Series, which wrapped last weekend in Indianapolis. He swam a 23.01 in Guanzhou, China; a 22.60 in Budapest, Hungary; and a 22.94 in Indianapolis. The 22.60 is the South American Record in the event, and ranks him as the 3rd-fastest swimmer in the history of the event.

This is the first announced instance of the governing body attempting to sway a national selection, though in 2015 Marculescu said that “we can do whatever” with regards to extending Michael Phelps a special invitation to compete at the World Championships even without qualifying for the team.


ATHLETES (events where their qualification was earned)


  • Paul Augusto – Corinthians
  • Fernando Vanzella – Sesi-SP
  • André Ferreira – Pinheiros
  • Sérgio Marques – Mines Tennis Club
  • Tiago Moreno – Pinheiros

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Tea rex
5 years ago

For World champs, I’d like to see:

1. Up to 3 swimmers per event (still have to stay under the 26-swimmer roster limit, USA)

2. Two rounds (not three) of 200s – no one wants to watch Hosszu or Ledecky loaf through 200m to save their energy.

3. Relay swimmers only get medals if they swim in finals.

4. Add non-Olympic events – I’m thinking 200 med relay, 800 IM, or 400 stroke.

Fast & Happy
5 years ago

Most deserving I think. Nic Santos is an incredible role model for all swimmers and actually all athletes of all ages. I wish him the Best in SKR! 👍

Tea rex
5 years ago

22.7 to medal?

5 years ago

Did Gabriel Santos not have a FINA A-cut for the 50m Fly from the last year?

5 years ago

Anyone else suspicious of this guy and his swims??

Reply to  QUACK
5 years ago

I know you’re being voted down quite a bit, but there could/should be some validity in the suspicions, given he has failed a drug test before and he’s an extreme statistical outlier given his age….

Reply to  DrSwimPhil
5 years ago

I mean so was dara torres, she was even older. It’s rare but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible

Reply to  Dudeman
5 years ago

Right, but a) there were suspicions about her (mainly due to that outlier), but more importantly b) Santos has a history of failing a drug test already…

Good but not Great
5 years ago

BTW, FINA decided to add the men’s 800 and women’s 1500 to the Olympics, as well as mixed relays, but couldn’t be bothered to add 50s of stroke because that would be “to many events”… I want the ISL.

Reply to  Good but not Great
5 years ago

Was it an IOC or FINA decision? Thought it was IOC.

bear drinks beer
Reply to  Good but not Great
5 years ago

Fina proposed to add all 50s to Olympics too, but was rejected by IOC or whoever is in charge.

A$AP Pocky
5 years ago

Thiccolas Santos is coming for that 50 fly gold

5 years ago

They should just give wildcard entries to everyone not on a country roster but currently ranked in the top 3 in every event. Golfers don’t need their countries permission to play in a major golf tournament so swimmers shouldn’t be beholden to their federation. Swimmers need to have control of their own destinies.

Reply to  Taa
5 years ago

Yes!!! Or something like this. Respect countries initial qualification protocol but allow top 4 or 6 or 8 world ranked swimmers that year to be added, allow a 3rd entry per country of they are a medal contender. Emma McKean was a 52 100 Freestyler in 2016, top 4-5 on the world, yet not racing that event.

Reply to  Taa
5 years ago

Or even look at the numbers when all entries have been submitted. If their are ‘spare’ places not filled, send out some invites.

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Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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