SwimSwam’s Official Awards For The 2021 Short Course World Championships


It was an action-packed six days of racing at the 2021 Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi, with no shortage of record-breaking swims, exciting races, and drama surrounding COVID withdrawals and breaststroke DQs.

Now that the meet has come and gone, it’s time to recognize the top performers from the competition with SwimSwam’s official awards.

Female Swimmer of the Meet: Maggie MacNeil, Canada

Canada’s Maggie MacNeil gets the nod as SwimSwam’s Female Swimmer of the Meet, walking away with four gold medals and one silver.

MacNeil was one of four female swimmers to win two individual events, first shattering the world record in the women’s 50 backstroke final (25.27) before winning the 100 butterfly in a time (55.04) that not only broke the Canadian Record, but made her the third-fastest swimmer in history.

MacNeil also contributed a 52.07 leg on the Canadian women’s 4×100 free relay that tied with the United States for gold on the opening night, and then she anchored Canada’s mixed 4×50 free relay home with a blistering 23.11 split to win the title in a narrow victory over the Dutch.

In that mixed relay, MacNeil erased an eight-tenths of a second lead that the Netherlands had to out-touch Kira Toussaint at the wall by .06, having out split her by .85.

Shortly after her 100 fly victory during the last session of the meet, MacNeil recorded a 55.30 butterfly split as the Canadian women picked up silver in the 4×100 medley relay, setting a new national record of 3:47.36. Sweden won gold in a European Record of 3:46.20.

The 21-year-old Michigan senior swam a total of 14 races over the six days, having also split 24.85 swimming fly on Canada’s 4×50 medley relay that narrowly missed a medal in fourth, and was also 23.50 on the women’s 4×50 free relay that finished sixth.


  • Siobhan Haughey, Hong Kong: Haughey was the only female swimmer other than MacNeil to break an individual world record, finally getting her hands on the women’s 200 freestyle mark in 1:50.31. Haughey also won the women’s 100 free in a new Championship Record of 50.98, and earned bronze in the women’s 400 free (3:58.12). What set MacNeil apart from Haughey was MacNeil’s relay performance—sure, Canada’s relays are significantly stronger than Hong Kong’s, but we saw Haughey only race the mixed 4×50 free relay and sit out of the other six team events. MacNeil had seven total relay swims, and even scratched the 100 back semis to be ready for a relay.

Male Swimmer of the Meet: Nic Fink, United States

Nic Fink emerges from a sea of contenders to win Male Swimmer of the Meet honors, having picked up a pair of individual victories and a total of six medals.

Fink won the men’s 200 breaststroke in a time of 2:02.28, edging out the Netherlands’ Arno Kamminga to become the first American man to win a breaststroke event since 2004.

Fink then downed his American Record in the 50 breast twice, ultimately winning a surprise gold medal in 25.53, and added an individual bronze in the 100 breast (55.87). He also made a semi-final appearance in the 100 IM, placing 16th.

In the relays, Fink threw down a sizzling 25.13 breaststroke leg to help the American men tie the Russians for gold in the 4×50 medley relay, matching the Championship Record in 1:30.51, and he finished the meet off by splitting 55.27 on the 4×100 medley relay as the U.S. won silver behind the Italians.

In the mixed 4×50 medley, Fink split 25.82 to help the U.S. place second, this time with the Dutch on top.

The 28-year-old finished with 14 total swims for the meet, matching MacNeil, and with his six medals, factored in on 20 percent of the U.S. podium finishes in Abu Dhabi (with the Americans winning 30 medals).


  • Kliment Kolesnikov, Russia: Six different male swimmers won six medals in Abu Dhabi, but besides Fink, Kolesnikov was the only other one to do while claiming a pair of individual golds. The Russian won the men’s 50 backstroke (22.66) and 100 IM (51.09), and added relay golds in the men’s 4×100 free and men’s 4×50 medley relays. The 21-year-old added an individual silver in the men’s 100 back and a relay bronze in the men’s 4×100 medley.

Junior Swimmer of the Meet: Anastasia Gorbenko, Israel

Note that we’re recognizing a junior swimmer as being 18 and under as of December 31, 2021, compared to FINA’s definition which only recognizes female swimmers as juniors when they’re 17 & under as of the end of the year.

Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko picks up our Junior Swimmer of the Meet award, having won a pair of individual gold medals in the women’s 50 breaststroke and 100 IM.

Gorbenko, 18, has truly emerged as one of the best all-around swimming talents over the last few years, evidenced by her dethroning of Katinka Hosszu in the women’s 200 IM at the LC European Championships in May, followed by a SC European title in the same event last month.

Here in Abu Dhabi, Gorbenko defeated a field of specialists in the women’s 50 breast, clocking 29.34 for a new Israeli Record while beating the event’s LC world record holder Benedetta Pilato of Italy (29.50).

Gorbenko followed up two nights later by topping another talented lineup in the 100 IM final, breaking her national record in a time of 57.80 to edge out France’s Beryl Gastaldello (57.96) and Russia’s Maria Kameneva (58.15).

Gorbenko surprisingly opted not to swim the 200 IM, where she would’ve been a factor for gold, but had additional performances in the women’s 100 back (10th, 57.45), 100 breast (11th, 1:04.95) and 200 breast (17th, 2:23.44).


  • Claire Curzan, United States: The 17-year-old Curzan was an absolute stud throughout the meet, walking away with six total medals and a pair of World Junior Records. Individually, Curzan reset WJRs in the women’s 50 fly (24.55) and 100 fly (55.39), winning bronze in both, and won a pair of relay golds on the American women’s 4×50 free (1:34.22, 23.40 split) and 4×100 free (3:28.52, 52.25 split). The Stanford commit added silvers in the women’s and mixed 4×50 medley relays, swimming fly on both with respective splits of 24.56 and 24.85. Curzan also made the 50 free individually, finishing sixth (one of four swims she had during the last session), and all in, raced 16 times during the six days.

Female Performance of the Meet: Maggie MacNeil, Women’s 50 Backstroke

Three individual world records went down at the meet, but none fell by a bigger margin (relatively speaking) than in the women’s 50 back, where Maggie MacNeil absolutely torched the all-time mark in 25.27.

MacNeil’s swim broke the previous world record of 25.60, held by Kira Toussaint (a time she hit twice in late 2020), and made fellow Canadian Kylie Masse‘s runner-up 25.62 go severely underappreciated.

MacNeil’s performance was the top FINA points-scoring swim of the meet by far, coming in at 1039 points.

In breaking a 50m world record by .33, MacNeil’s performance would be the equivalent of Siobhan Haughey having broken the women’s 200 free record by 1.32 seconds (would give her a time of 1:49.11, compared to her actual WR of 1:50.31) and Florian Wellbrock lowering the men’s 1500 free record by 9.90 seconds (would give him a time of 13:58.16, compared to his actual WR of 14:06.88).

While it’s kind of apples and oranges to compare a 50m world record and a significantly longer event on a per-50m basis, it does provide some clarity on just how incredible that swim was for MacNeil.


  • Siobhan Haughey, 200 freestyle: Haughey had been flirting with the world record in the women’s 200 freestyle for a while, including producing the #2 and #3 swims of all-time during the ISL playoffs in Eindhoven. In Abu Dhabi, she finally found her way under Sarah Sjostrom‘s 2014 mark of 1:50.43 in 1:50.31, winning gold by nearly two seconds.

Male Performance of the Meet: Florian Wellbrock, Men’s 1500 Freestyle

Florian Wellbrock put on an absolute clinic in the men’s 1500 freestyle final during the last session of the meet on Tuesday, hanging with the pack early on before taking off and negative-splitting his way to a new world record by over a second.

Wellbrock finished in a time of 14:06.88, breaking Gregorio Paltrinieri‘s world record of 14:08.06 set in 2015, and joins Paltrinieri as the only swimmers to have multiple sub-14:10 performances in their career.

The men’s 1500 free proved to be the top race of the meet for men in terms of overall quality, with the three medal-winning swims—Wellbrock’s world record, Ahmed Hafnaoui‘s 14:10.94, and Mykhailo Romanchuk‘s 14:11.47—ranking 1-2-3 on the FINA points list on the men’s side.

Read more on the world record swim here.

Making the swim even more impressive was the fact that Wellbrock produced this swim less than a week after winning the open water 10km (and earning bronze in the mixed 4×1500 relay) at the FINA’s Open Water World Series Grand Finale.


  • Alberto Razzetti, 200 butterfly: Razzetti took down a talented field to win the men’s 200 fly in a time of 1:49.06, obliterating his previous Italian Record of 1:50.24 set just last month at the Short Course European Championships. The swim also launched him up into fifth on the all-time performers’ list in the event.

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Stoked 2 b vaccinated
9 months ago

Will Lincoln deserves some accolades!

9 months ago

Pretty sure Kliment deserved it more than Fink. More gold overall and an individual silver also

9 months ago

Does Spencer think Fink should be athlete Of USA ? He didn’t have much “love” for him in making his predictions and the commentary was disputing his call! 😏

Reply to  Ghost
9 months ago

Koch on the podium without Fink in the top 3 for the 200! I believe my exact words were “that is crazy talk”

9 months ago

I really think there should be some more awards:
Breakout Female: Louise Hansson – 7 medals (3 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze) including tieing the world record and an champ in 100 bk (all individual events went into top 10 all time).
Breakout Male: Shaine Casas – 6 medals (2 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze) surprised everyone in the 100 back, good relay performances too.
Female Country of the Meet: Sweden / Canada (Sweden were the only women’s team to win a medal in every relay they competed in, Hansson x2, Sjostrom stepped up individually, Canada women were amazing too with a few surprises – MacNeil record, Ciepulca, Smith, Pickrem..)
Male Country of the Meet: Italy… Read more »

Reply to  Splash
9 months ago

Nice categories… Almost need a ‘Swammy’s’ version of awards for the specific meet itself.
*Bounce back swim
*Biggest upset
*Best Multi stroke performance
*Biggest relay hero

Reply to  Njones
9 months ago

They sound amazing ! I’d go with:
Bounce back – Sarah 50 free revenge after losing 50 fly
Biggest upset – Gorbenko 50 breast
Best multi stroke performance – Hansson (only her Ranomi, Gorbenko, and SS won individual medals over 2 strokes, not sure if IM counts…)
Biggest relay hero – Curzan/Sanchez (both were crazy busy with heats and finals)

Gen D
Reply to  Splash
9 months ago

To complete your list: MacNeil also won individual (gold) medals in 2 different strokes

Reply to  Gen D
9 months ago

Straight over my head – she wins over Hansson then 😅

Reply to  Splash
9 months ago

MacNeil and Hansson had impressive multi stroke performances, but come on! This award belongs to my man Ilya Shymanovich. He literally swims two different strokes at the same time! Call me when Maggie or Louise start swimming butterfly on their back.

Reply to  Willswim
9 months ago

Still didnt get disqualified like many others. Maybe he isnt as much of a cheater as you claim

Reply to  Splash
9 months ago

Great suggestion, and totally agree with the choices 👍

mcintosh vs grimes
Reply to  Splash
9 months ago

Population doesn’t have the effect a lot of you think it does. If so why don’t nations like India, Bangladesh, pakistan, china and germany top the swimming medal table?

Stop using this bs population narrative to discredit the brilliant american swimmers and other american athletes

Reply to  mcintosh vs grimes
9 months ago

The larger the population the greater the number of genetically endowed athletes with the physical characteristics (such as height, limb dimensions, body weight, cardiovascular capacity, muscle strength, and muscle fibre properties) that are suited to producing superior sports performance. However, some countries do not have the resources to facilitate this sort of development (e.g, high performances centers, great coaches). Both nature and nurture play an impact, you can have the best genetics but without the high level training conditions one will never succeed. Unfortunately for countries you mentioned (Pakistan, India, etc.), they are less economically developed which means there is less funding available to maximize potential. Swimmers like Douglass and Curzan have developed through numerous junior programs available to them.… Read more »

Lionel Messi is a legend
Reply to  Splash
9 months ago

Then why is the Men’s US Soccer Team horrible at Soccer?

Reply to  mcintosh vs grimes
9 months ago

It’s obviously multifactorial but population size is absolutely one of those factors but it probably also has diminishing returns beyond a certain point.

Imagine thinking poverty riddled countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan could compete in such an expensive sport as swimming. Even in developed countries chasing an Olympic dream in swimming is more accessible to those from wealthy families.

9 months ago

MacNeil should have won the FINA swimmer of the meet. She was robbed. As outlined in the article, her multitude of swims and her WR were way more impressive than Haughey’s

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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