At 37, Nicholas Santos Becomes the Oldest World Champs Medalist in History


Yesterday, the ‘old guys’ of the Brazilian swimming gave the Americans a run for their money and came up with a silver medal, national record, and South American record in the 400 free relay. Cesar Cielo (30), Bruno Fratus (28), and Marcelo Chierighini (26) combined with 21-year-old Gabriel Santos for 3:10.34, with Chierighini swimming the third-fastest textile split in history (46.85).

The Brazilians held with their ‘old guys’ theme today. 37-year-old South American record holder Nicholas Santos became the oldest-ever swimmer to win a world championships medal tonight when he went 22.79 for silver in the 50 fly. Santos, 10 years older than any swimmer in the field, came up just .04 behind gold medalist Benjamin ProudSantos’s swim was 7th-fastest in history, and just over a tenth off his South American record of 22.61.

Santos already held the title of oldest World Champs medalist, having won a silver medal in the 50 fly back in 2015. At that point, he nabbed the record by just 8 days over Germany’s Mark Warnecke. Warnecke (interestingly enough, born a day shy of exactly 10 years before Santos), won gold in the 50 breaststroke at the 2005 World Championships in Montreal. He’s still the oldest world champ in history at 35 years, 5 months and 12 days.

Santos won his 2015 silver at 35 years, 5 months and 20 days, due to the 2015 World Championships’ late start date (the meet started August 2nd). He won his 2017 silver at 37 years, 5 months and 10 days.

On the women’s side, Therese Alshammar of Sweden is the oldest swimmer to win an individual gold medal at long course worlds, after taking a silver in the 50 fly in 2011 at the age of 33.

Santos’s swim and yesterday’s relay performance come at a time of particular relevance for the Brazilians, as many of their top swimmers have recently been fired from their swim clubs due to their age. Most notably, Fratus was dismissed from Pinheiros in January. Other Brazilian swimmers who have been dismissed from their clubs or had to face a pay cut for being “too old” include Joanna Maranhao, Thiago Pereira, Felipe Francaand Leonardo de Deus

Though Santos’s club, Unisanta, has not made moves to drop him, his performance tonight, especially coupled with yesterday’s relay, sends a message to clubs throughout the country.

The age issue may be the tip of the iceberg for systemic problems with Brazilian swimming. Investigations into the CBDA have led to funding cuts, lawsuits, suspension of salaries and national championship meets, and even the arrest of long-time CBDA president Coarcy Nunes. However, Brazilian swimmers are fighting back in the way that they know best: with strong performances in the pool.


1 Brazil 0 2 0 2
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  • Paraguayan record  – Charles Hockin Brusquetti – M 100 back – 55.81
  • Peruvian record – Maria Bramont-Arias – W 1500 free – 17:01.85

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4 years ago

Santos time are wrong on the story.. Also.. Santos was already the oldest medalist from 2015 Worlds.. Today he just increased this record..

About Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht grew up in Kansas and spent most of her childhood trying to convince coaches to let her swim backstroke in freestyle sets. She took her passion to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and swam at NAIA Nationals all four years. After graduating in 2015, she moved to …

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