Swim Magazine

What were the results of the World Aquatics Masters Championships 2023?

Masters swimming has history in Japan, with the first ever World Masters Championships taking place in Tokyo in 1986. The 2023 World Aquatics Masters Championships returned to Japan, gracing three different cities on the island of Kyushu. Fukuoka provided the stages for swimming, open water swimming and diving, Kumamoto witnessed the battles for water polo titles, and artistic swimming assembled in Kagoshima city. Let’s check out the results in each different contest.

WORDS: Amber Keegan

Open water swimming results at the World Aquatics Masters Championships 2023

1,233 determined competitors (938 men and 295 women) entered the 3 km open water at Seaside Momochi Beach Park, taking on each other, as well as the high temperatures, currents and jellyfish. A particularly fierce battle ensued for the men’s 80-84 age group, with just 10 seconds separating 1st to 7th. Spain’s Joaquin Canales emerged victorious, with GBR’s Tony Cherrington less than a second behind in silver. By contrast, the biggest margin of victory in a men’s event was over a minute and a half, in the 60-65 age group, by Sweden’s Conny Mindemark (Goteburg Sim).

In the women’s race, the 75-79 category saw the biggest margin of victory. Ruth Shaps (Manatee Aquatics Masters, USA) finished 15 minutes ahead of second place.

Who came top in Artistic Swimming at the World Aquatics Masters Championships 2023?

The home nation was the team to beat in artistic swimming. Tokyo as Rhythm amassed an astonishing 19 gold medals, across duet, solo and team events. They particularly excelled in team events, winning the team event in the 50-64 and 65+ categories, and the 65+ free combination event. Kansai Olympians from Japan also performed well. Other nations featuring regularly amongst the medals were Canada and America.

Calgary Aquamums Masters were Canada’s most successful team, winning 13 medals (6 gold, 7 silver). Two women were responsible for all of these golds, tremendous teammates Cathy New and Carol Fitzsimmonds. They took gold and silver together in the solo free, technical and overall categories, as well as winning gold together in the solo, technical and overall duets.

The highest individual scores of the competition came from Kano Omata, 25-29, of the Japanese club Aqlub Chofu, who demonstrated an unparalleled prowess. The only individual to break 80 points, she did so twice, scoring 80.7000 in her free and 81.9811 in her technical routines. Omata was a double medallist at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships before moving to masters artistic swimming. Silver and bronze went to Daniele Dominguez and Ioana Gheta, both of Canadian Club Aquatique de l’est. Another notable performance came from the 40-64 free combination by Japan’s Kansai Olympians club. Their enchanting performance earned them over 79 points, putting them 12 points clear of silver.

Women’s and men’s swimming results at the World Aquatics Masters Championships 2023

Australian Susie O’Neill celebrated her 50th birthday in style. Olympic champion in the 200 butterfly (1996), and 200m freestyle (2000), Susie is no stranger to success. Kyushu was her first competition since the Sydney Olympics, and she came out of retirement in style, setting a new World Record in the 50-54 years 50m butterfly (29.08). Despite years of experience, O’Neill proved that the dreaded equipment malfunction can happen to any of us… In the call room, her goggles came apart at the nose and she needed an official’s help to reassemble them!

Another woman lighting up the pool was Brit Helen Gorman. She destroyed the 50-54 age 200m breast, winning by an astounding 22 seconds, in a Championship record. She admitted, ‘200 breast isn’t always fun, but it was big smiles at the end when I saw I’d dropped under the record, and gave a wave to the very loud cheer squad’. Gorman also won the 50m and 100m breaststroke, 200 IM, silver in 50m freestyle, and bronze in the 50m freestyle.

The men’s breaststroke was also a spectacle this year, with championship records set in every 100m age group apart from the 75-79 category. Italy’s Carol Travaini (60-64) and Australia’s Tony Goodwin (85-89) both took World titles and Records in all three breaststroke events. Another man to do the triple was Britain’s David Cumming (85-89), this time in butterfly. He flew to championship golds in all three events, taking 50m and 200m World Records.

The host country had reason to celebrate too, with St Kansai’s Yoshiko Osaki earning five 85-89 years world titles and World Record times in 50m breaststroke and 100m backstroke. Chilean Andrea Muller took the most records of any athlete though. The Estadio Espanol Las Condes swimmer set 50-54 years 50m and 100m breaststroke Championship Records, and 200m breaststroke and 50m butterfly World Records. Another competition star was Traci Granger. The 60-64 swimmer, representing Tamalpais Aquatic Masters (USA), became World Champion in 50 free, 100 free, 50 fly and 100 fly. She won the 50 fly by over two seconds, also claiming a Masters World record.

The diving results at the World Aquatics Masters Championships 2023

USA, Germany, Italy and Japan were regular features in the diving medals. Two American stars were Jeffrey Stabile and Jennifer Mangum. Together, they won mixed 100+ 3m springboard silver and mixed platform silver. Stabile took 55-59 individual medals in the 1m springboard (gold) and the platform and 3m springboard (bronze). Mangum also won women’s 1m and 3m springboard and platform golds. She is an inductee into the International Swimming Hall of Fame for masters diving and head diving coach at the University of Texas. Stabile is a diving coach too, as well as a science teacher at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Another excellent American performer was Courtney Rudolph, who won women’s 30-34 1m springboard and platform titles. Her incredible 295.70 points on platform made her the highest scorer of any female and took her more than 40 points clear of silver. She also won the 3m springboard bronze.

In contrast to Rudolph’s decisive victory, the closest fought event was the mixed 100+ 3m synchronised final. Just 0.66 points separated the gold and bronze teams, both from Japan. It was Hiramoto and Wakayama who took gold, with Hiramoto picking up another gold in the men’s 65-69 platform.

Logan Pearsall (USA) took home the accolade of the highest men’s individual score, earning 414.35 points for 30-35 3m springboard. He also took home plenty of metal, winning gold in the 1m springboard and platform, synchronised men’s 3m and platform, and silver in the mixed 3m synchronised (50-99). Pearsall is the head diving coach of Colorado Mesa University. For both of Pearsall’s synchronised golds he paired with Ahmad Elsayed, who also won 30-34 3m springboard gold and 25-34 1m springboard silver.

Iranian diver Ghaem Miribian, former head coach of Iran’s national diving team, was on a golden streak himself in the 40-44 age category. He won the 1m and 3m meter springboard, and the platform. Later, he took to Instagram to speak about his achievement, stating that he hoped it could inspire both the youth and veterans of sports.

One German 45-49 diver, Dorit Ehren, also had a spectacular medal haul. She won gold in the platform, silver in 1m springboard, bronze in 3m springboard and the mixed 3m, mixed platform and women’s platform synchronised 100+ events.

Who dominated water polo at the World Aquatics Masters Championships 2023?

In the only women’s tournament of the competition, San Diego Shores (USA) fought Pro Recco Nuoto e Pallanuoto SSD Arl (Italy) in the gold medal match. The American side narrowly emerged victorious, with a score of 4-6. San Diego Shores are mastering the challenge of engaging post-partum women in sports. Impressively, seven of their players have young babies, with their captain giving birth just six months before the competition. Their team also featured Joelle Bekhazi, Canadian Olympian with almost 600 international caps for Canada.

America dominated the men’s masters water polo. The opening match of the 70 and 75+ men’s water polo was played between the Australian Perth Cockatoos and USA’s Blue Thunder in a rematch of the 2019 gold-medal final in Gwangju, Korea. The Cockatoos made it to the finals, where they were taken down 8-6 by San Diego Athletic Club (USA). Arguably, Bryan Weaver from this San Diego 70+ team is a staple of not just San Diego, but of all American water polo.

Weaver was a swimming coach in the 80s when local athletes convinced him to give them some water time for water polo. After seeing the demand and positive impact the sport was having on individuals, he organised a national championship, making the USA the first country in the world to have a masters water polo nationals. He has continued to drive the growth of the sport in America.

Weaver’s impact certainly contributes to the depth of USA water polo at this competition. The 50+ and 60+ categories saw all-American finals, with Darkside and Seattle Water Polo winning their respective age groups. USA’s The Olympic Club 40-49s then beat the home nation’s Amberjacks. The 65+ category saw another American victory over the Cockatoos, this time by Santa Barbara Silver Surfers.

Overall, the World Aquatics Masters Championships 2023 certainly put on a show. With less than a year until the next edition (February, Doha 2024) we can already start to look forward to the next World Championships!