It was 4:54pm on mainland Portugal – another three hours in Doha, Qatar – when a Portuguese man became, for the first time, the best in the world in a swimming event. This Monday, Diogo Ribeiro jumped, dived, swam and celebrated. There is no one better than him anymore – In the current world, but also in the history of Portuguese swimming.
The Portuguese swimmer is the new world champion in the 50m butterfly, a record no national swimmer has achieved – and the 19-year-old was the first to win a silver medal in Japan in 2023. Diogo Ribeiro finished the race in 22.97 seconds, beating Michael Andrew And Cameron McEvoy. The start of the race was not great, as Diogo reacted well to the start, but he did not make an eye-catching underwater course.
Then the “engine” started. With his tremendous recovery, he had an explosive final limb, a perfect final slide and took home the gold medal. The swimmer himself admitted, shortly after the race, that “the start was not good,” but that he was “happy to be world champion.”
The “promised” victory.
A few months ago, asking a layman what he thought of Portuguese swimmers might have given a vague answer about some well-known names, in a country that is generally average in the sport. Today, asking the same question to the same average person gives, in theory, an answer like “I heard we have a kid from Coimbra showing up.” This was written on these pages in 2022, and in 2024 it is no longer valid at all. Diogo Ribeiro has succeeded in clarifying the connection between this hypothesis, and today he is a certainty in swimming and not a child from Coimbra appears.
This world title is not a surprise at all. Hours before the race, José Machado, sporting director of the Portuguese Swimming Federation, pointed to a gold medal as a very likely outcome. “Diogo is currently at the level required to be able to discuss the best position, which is to become world champion,” he confirmed to Renacenza. He added: “We are talking about a swimmer who finished second in the last World Cup. Diogo started with the best time in this tournament [o ouro] “It's definitely his ambition.”
In the 50 meter event, there is not too much physical management or tactical element, as there is in the long event. It was about jumping and swimming as fast as possible and touching the wall before others. Sound simple? maybe. But this world title is a work that began in 2008, when Diogo started swimming at the age of four. 15 years later, there is nothing simple about it – Not even in the way of someone who lost his father at a very young age, had trouble at school and an accident that nearly killed him.
The 50-meter butterfly is not an Olympic distance, but these details do not diminish the significance of the achievement: it is still a World Cup gold medal for swimming that no one born in this country would have had the ability to reach.
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