As reported on Swimnews.com, Spain's Aschwin Wildeboer beat Aaron Peirsol's World Record in the 100 Back on the final day of swimming at the 2009 Mediterranean Games. Wildeboer's time of 52.38 leading off Spain's 4x100 Medley Relay, broke Peirsol's mark set on his way to gold in Beijing last year and also his own European Record set in the 100 Back final earlier in the competition. Wildeboer now throws himself into medal contention for this summer's Worlds, along with whatever two Americans qualify as well as others such as Junya Koga.
In early May, I did a project for high school Spanish class which was a report on Wildeboer. If you are not familiar with his background, here is the rundown:
Aschwin Wildeboer Faber is a Spanish swimmer who was born in Sabadell, Spain on February 14, 1986. He swam in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics in Athens and Beijing, respectively and, over the past year and a half, has grown into one of the top backstroke swimmers in the world.
He comes from a true swimming family. His father, Paulus Wildeboer, who (like Aschwin’s mother) is from the Netherlands, coached swimming at Club Natació Sabadell. His brother, Olaf, who is two and a half years older than Aschwin, is a freestyle swimmer who swam the 200 Freestyle at the Athens games, failing to advance out of the heats on either occasion. Interestingly, Olaf swam for Spain in 2004, but switched to swimming for the Netherlands at the 2006 European championships, and swam under coach Jacco Verhaeran, the coach of Dutch great Pieter van den Hoogenband.
Wildeboer has risen through the ranks over a period of five years. He did swim at the Athens Olympics and the 2005 World Championships in Montreal, but he failed to advance to past prelims in either meet. At the 2006 European championships, he made his first international semi-finals, finishing 14th, 12th, and 16th in the 50m, 100m, and 200m Backstroke, respectively. He also led Spain to a 9th-place finish in the 4x100m medley relay.
After an absence from major meets throughout the winter and spring of 2007, including the 2007 World Championships, Wildeboer returned for the 2007 European Short Course championships in December of that year, where not only did he make his first international finals, he won bronze medals in the 50m and 200m Back, to go along with a pair of fourth-place finishes in the 100m Back and 4x50 Medley Relay. At the Long Course version of the meet three months later, he made finals in four events, finishing 4th in the 100 and 200 Back and 5th in the 50 Back and leading Spain to 8th in the 4x100 Medley relay.
Only five months later, Wildeboer swam in his second Olympics, a meet which turned out vastly different from his first. Swimming his heat with defending champion and world record holder Aaron Peirsol, Wildeboer had a breakthrough swim in the prelims of the 100m Back, dropping his best time to 53.67, a new Spanish record and just 0.02 behind Peirsol, advancing from 16th seed to 4th-ranked going into semi-finals. He remained in fourth after semis, with a 53.51, again a new Spanish record. He matched that time in finals, finishing 7th. He ended up pulling out of the 200m Back.
He was not done. Only four months later, he swam at the European short course championships. On the first day, he qualified for the final of the 200m Back in 7th, but had a great finals swim, chasing down early leader Stanislav Donets of Russia. In the end, the two men shared gold in 1:49.22, Wildeboer’s first gold on an international level. Later that night, he swam a 23.27 as the 50m Back leadoff leg of the 4x50m Medley Relay, in which Spain ended up 7th. That time tied Thomas Rupprath’s European record, a time which a month previously was the World Record.
The next day, he beat his record in the 50m Back semi-finals, with a 23.22, but Lubos Krizko set the new European record, 23.15. He finished second in the finals later that night, just 0.06 behind Donets. The next day, he swam the second fastest time ever in the semi-finals of the 100m Back, 49.66, just 0.03 off American Peter Marshall’s world record. In the finals, he broke the World Record, but finished second to Donets.
Just three weeks later, however, he swam the lead-off leg of a 4x100m Medley relay at the Spanish short course nationals. His backstroke split was 49.20, breaking Donets’ World Record. There has been some controversy regarding the conditions of the race (his brother, who swims for the Netherlands, was on the relay), but it is the fastest time ever.
Wildeboer’s next task was to qualify for this summer’s World Championships in Rome, which he did in great fashion. At the Spanish Cup in early April 2009, he swam the Long Course 100m Back in 52.93, becoming the first man from Europe under 53 seconds and the fourth fastest man all-time (since then, someone has gone faster, so now he is fifth). He also swam a Spanish record and personal best in the 50m Back, 24.84*, which ties for the fourth-fastest time in the world this year.
At the Worlds in Rome, Wildeboer will be a medal favorite in his signature 50m and 100m Backstroke. Both races are relatively wide open and will be very tight. He will face World Record-holder and 2-time Olympic champion Perisol, swimming superstar Michael Phelps, and/or whatever two Americans qualify, as well as strong backstrokers from Japan, France, and Australia. In the 50m Back, he will have American World Record-holder Randall Bal, Great Britain’s Liam Tancock, Japan’s Junya Koga, and several others on his mind.
Wildeboer is one of several stars who have really helped Spanish swimming grow over the past years. There are two other World Record-holders on the team. Mireia Belmonte Garcia set the 400m IM Short Course record in December, while Rafael Munoz Perez smashed the 50m Fly World Record (Long Course) at April’s Spanish Open. Munoz is also second all-time in the Long Course 100m Fly. Along with Wildeboer, he will be in a deep hunt for medals at the World Championships.
*He broke this mark also at the Mediterranean Games, swimming 24.73.