Swim of the Week: Louise Hansson’s Surprise 100 Back World Title

Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

There was no shortage of incredible swims at the 2021 Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi, with three individual world records set, one relay world record tied, and numerous championship records, razor-thin races, and a pair of rare relay dead-heats for gold.

While this onslaught of performances made it tough to pick for this edition of Swim of the WeekLouise Hansson‘s surprise victory in the women’s 100 backstroke gets the nod for a number of reasons.

For one, Hansson says adding the event to her schedule was a last-minute decision, which checks out given that it’s a race she’s contested sporadically in recent years.

Hansson broke the Swedish Record at the Berlin stop of the FINA World Cup in October, clocking 56.03, but prior to that, she hadn’t raced the SCM 100 back in six years, having set a PB of 57.74 at the 2015 SC Euros.

Swimming for the Toronto Titans in the ISL, Hansson was never utilized in the 100 back, with teammates Kylie Masse and Lisa Bratton generally taking backstroke duties, while Hansson was the club’s go-to performer on fly.

The 25-year-old has raced the event more frequently in the long course pool, including hitting a best time of 1:00.04 en route to taking sixth at the LC Euros in May, but nonetheless, her drop in Abu Dhabi was one no one could’ve seen coming.

Hansson built her way through the heats and the semis, putting up respective times of 56.41 and 55.85 to qualify first into the final while breaking her national record in the process.

Then, in the final, Hansson went head-to-head with her Toronto teammate Masse, and got the better of her by a razor-thin margin, .02, to win gold in 55.20.

The performance rocketed Hansson up into #5 on the all-time performers list, while Masse’s 55.22 broke the Canadian Record and American Katharine Berkoff (55.40) won bronze in a time that also cracked the all-time top 10.

All-Time Performers, Women’s 100 Back (SCM)

  1. Minna Atherton (AUS), 54.89
  2. Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 55.03
  3. Olivia Smoliga (USA), 55.04
  4. Kira Toussaint (NED), 55.17
  5. Louise Hansson (SWE), 55.20
  6. Kylie Masse (CAN), 55.22
  7. Sakai Shiho (JPN), 55.23
  8. Emily Seebohm (AUS), 55.31
  9. Katharine Berkoff (USA), 55.40
  10. Gao Chang (CHN), 55.48

In addition to her 100 back victory, Hansson also helped the Swedish women tie the world record in the 4×50 medley relay and break the European Record in the 4×100 medley relay (winning gold in both), and added two more relay medals (one silver, one bronze) in the 4×50 and 4×100 free.

Individually, Hansson added a silver medal in the 100 fly, recording a best time of 55.10 which ties her for fifth on the all-time performers’ list, and also won bronze in the 50 back in 25.86, lowering the Swedish Record down to 25.83 in the semi-finals.

That gave Hansson seven medals for the competition, which tied her for the most of any swimmer at the competition while also matching teammate Sarah Sjostrom for the most won by a Swedish swimmer at a single edition of SC Worlds (Sjostrom won her seven in Abu Dhabi as well).

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7 months ago

Amazing how successful she’s been as a backstroker. She recently transferred to Loughborough, didn’t she? How much of an impact did that have on her choice of stroke and events?

And for what it’s worth – she’s got the most intoxicating and inspiring smile in swimming.

Good for her!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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