As the Toronto Titans are winding down their 2021 International Swimming League season this week in Eindhoven, Julia Hassler will wind down her competitive swimming career.
The 28-year old swimmer from Liechtenstein has represented her country at the last three Olympic Games, and is the greatest swimmer in the history of her tiny nation with a population of under 40,000. She carried Liechtenstein’s flag at the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the opening ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Hassler is an 18-time champion (and 29-time medalist) at the Games of the Small States of Europe. Her biggest international success came at the 2017 European Short Course Swimming Championships, where she earned a bronze medal in the women’s 400 free.
That makes her the only Liechtenstein swimmer to ever medal at the European Championships in swimming, either in short course or long course. In fact, when she finished 5th in the 1500 free and 7th in the 800 free at the 2012 European Aquatics Championships (long course), she became the first Liechtenstein swimmer to even final at a European Championship.
She finished 7th at the most recent European Short Course Championships in the 400 free.
Five years later, in 2017, she finished 7th in the 1500 free at the World Aquatics Championships, where she became the first Liechtenstein swimmer to ever final at that meet – something that is still true today.
Hassler was celebrated by her Toronto Titans teammates on Saturday in their final ISL Playoff match with signs that congratulated her on retirement. To extend her career by one match, the Titans would have to win the match this weekend. With a number of injuries and other challenges, which have resulted in just 8 men being available for the match, the Titans enter day 2 in last place and would need a miracle to qualify for next week’s finale.
Hassler has been a contributor for the Titans this season in the 400 free. On Saturday, she finished 3rd in the 400 free, scoring 9 points. But as a distance freestyler, her upside was limited – she was 8th in the 200 free, her only other race besides the 400, in each of the Titans’ previous two playoff matches. The ISL doesn’t offer races longer than 400 meters.
Hassler’s all-time Olympic Finishes:
- London 2012 – 400 free – 27th place (4:12.99)
- London 2012 – 800 free – 17th place (8:35.18)
- Rio 2016 – 800 free – 21st place (8:38.19)
- Tokyo 2020 – 400 free – 12th place (4:06.98)
- Tokyo 2020 – 800 free – 15th place (8:26.99)
- Tokyo 2020 – 1500 free – 16th place (16:12.55)
Hassler is the Liechtenstein Record holder in the 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1500 freestyles, 100 and 200 butterflies, 400 IM, and 3 relays in long course; as well as every women’s freestyle event, the 100 and 200 butterflies, and the 400 IM in short course.
Her retirement comes even as she’s doing some of the best racing of her career: her personal best times in every freestyle race, long course or short course, has come since November 2019, with 8 of those 12 personal bests coming in the 2021 calendar year.
So dominant is Hassler in Liechtenstein swimming history that her national record in the 800 free, both in long course and short course, is faster than the national record in the 800 free relays. In long course, she has been 17 seconds faster than the 800 free relay record (even though she was on that record-setting 800 free relay). In short course, she is a whopping 1 minute, 27 seconds faster than the national relay record that has survived since 1998.