Wiffen, Haughey, Honda & Williamson Deliver Flow Of World-Title Firsts

2024-02-14 Reading Time: 5 minutes
Day 4 winners making their world-title debuts, l-r, Sam Williamson, Dan Wiffen, Siobhan Haughey and Tomoru Honda - images courtesy of World Aquatics

Daniel Wiffen, Siobhan Haughey, Tomoru Honda and Sam Williamson delivered a flow of debut world titles on day 4 at the oddball World Championships in Doha.

Ireland’s Wiffen, in the 800m free, and Hong Kong’s Haughey, in the 200m free, produced the finest result by any swimmer from their countries at a World long-course showcase, while Honda (200 ‘fly), of Japan, and Williamson (50 breast), of Australia, joined the champion’s club at the second most prestigious event in their sport after the Olympic Games.

It’s fairly rare in swimming for every race in a finals session at a World Championships to produce a maiden global long-course crown for the victor in every individual final but without taking the shine away from the winners, the chances rose the moment World Aquatics and the Doha organisers decided to host their showcase in Olympic year for the first time ever.

The pattern was broken in the last final of the evening when the USA returned to a place they’d known before, atop the 4x100m mixed medley in 3:40.22, 2.9sec ahead of Australia, with Great Britain, Olympic champions, third 4.87 off the winning pace.

February is just weeks away from the start of trials season in many countries and some of those have opted to use Doha as a last selection test or at least on the list of moments when their swimmers might book a ticket to the Paris Olympics this July and August.

Men’s 800m freestyle – final – Wiffen Keeps Rolling

Daniel Wiffen – courtesy of his sponsor FINIS

Ireland is one of those nations ticking the Doha trials box and Dan Wiffen seized the day, kept the momentum of two years of only-way-is-up progress going and let there tiger out of his tank in the last 100m in a close battle with two men who already had World long-course crowns in their pantheon of major honours.

Now Wiffen has one too – and Ireland’s first world l/c medal of any colour – after he shadowed 2016 Olympic and 2022 World 1500m champion Gregorio Paltrinieri for 700m before putting his foot on the accelerator just as the Italian started to struggle.

Elijah Winnington, the 2022 World 400m champion, sensed his chance, too but at 100m to go, he was 1.52 behind Wiffen and had work to do. A lap later as Wiffen sneaked ahead of Paltrinieri for the first time in the final, the gap between the Irishman and the Australian had widened to 1.93. Winnington was a touch swifter that Wiffen down the last lap but the race was over long before the clock stopped in favour of Ireland and Loughborough’s distance ace.

Wiffen set his first world record, over 800m short-course, last December in one of his two gold-medal winning races at European short-course championships.

His coach at Loughborough, Andi Manley tweeted:

Wiffen, who works with Manley and coach/sports scientist and former international Mike Peyrebrune,, explained how he felt in a rare moment of global swimming celebration on Irish telly:


All Results in Doha – at Omega

Women’s 200m freestyle – final

Siobhan Haughey, courtesy of World Aquatics
Siobhan Haughey, courtesy of World Aquatics

Siobhan Haughey was bridesmaid twice at Tokyo2020ne, with silvers in the 100 and 200m freestyle, and her growing vault of honours was also lacking World long-course gold. No longer.

From reaction on block to best-ever from Hong Kong at a World Championships, Haughey led Erika Fairweather, who also made history for her country, New Zealand, when she claimed 400m free gold on day 1 in Doha.

The pace told on her down the last lap as Fairweather closed the gap but Haughey had done enough by a good margin and claimed the crown in 1:54.89, the Kiwi chaser on 1:55.77 for silver and bronze to Brianna Throssell, of Australia, produced the swiftest home-coming split, 29.73, to pass teammate Shayna Jack and Czech challenger Barbora Semanova for her place on the podium.

Men’s 200m butterfly – final

Tomoru Honda, courtesy of World Aquatics
Tomoru Honda, courtesy of World Aquatics

Tomoru Honda battle stroke for stroke with Italian Alberto Razzetti for three laps until the two turned at precisely the same moment with a lap to go.

The Japanese contender then pressed on to victory in 1:53.88 and a debut world title as the Italian fell off the pace, his 1:54.65 keeping Austria’s bronze medallist Martin Espernberger at bay on 1:55.15, Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand fading from third at the last turn to seventh by close of play.

Honda, the Olympic silver medallist at a home Games in Tokyo three years ago. Since then, m Honda has had a crazed World-titles schedule to produce bronze in 2022, bronze in 2023 and now gold in 2024, a run that has never been possible fort a swimmer in any event in swimming before Covid-contract catch-up tore a shred out of the thread of swimming history. It is now harder than at any other time to compare the achievements of swimmers across generations when it comes to medal counts and records runs.

Men’s 50m breaststroke – final

The race video tells the tale of a former triple World champion swimming as fast as his rivals but beaten off the blocks, Adam Peaty‘s start leaving him struggling to get back in contention. The British ace is a work in progress – and progress he’s definitely making while racing without resting from the work he’s putting in for Paris 2024.

Sharpness was with young Sam Williamson, who cracked the Oceania record two take the title in 26.32, a clog away from Peaty’s world mark of 25.95 but roundly good for the win today ahead of Italian Nicolo Martinenghi and American winner of the 100m in Doha, Nic Fink. Peaty finished fourth, the place occupied by Williamson in the 100m two days ago when Peaty returned to the World-Championship podium for the first time since 2019, beyond a torrid time and a turnaround.

Williamson said: “It hasn’t sunk in yet. Someone else someone actually said it before, and I had to pause and ask them … am I really world champion? What does it mean?”

“It’s an incredible experience. I just wish everyone back home was here to celebrate it. Two years ago, I was sitting at home watching the swimming and just thought you know what that could be me one day. So I just put my head down and work my ass off to get here. This isn’t an Olympic event … I have to do two laps and my next goal is to get back in the pool and train and give myself the best chance of Paris.”

Sam Williamson – photo courtesy of World Aquatics

The 2023 World champion Qin Haiyang, of China, was among many leading names who opted to bypass Doha.

Mixed 4x100m Medley – final

The Doha-in-February-2024 factor is felt in every event, in some events more keenly than in others and In every relay. None of the podium teams had their best quartets in town or in shape to be in town in winning form. The result sheet tells the tale well enough.

Olympic champions Britain had two of its Tokyo crew in the water, Anna Hopkin, who swept the quartet from fifth to third with a 52.5 split, and Adam Peaty who emerged to note the nature of the moment in prevailing circumstances that are a very long way from ideal if the sport wishes to reach the wider audience in that massive global sports market that offers the only true hope of growth: “It’s kudos to the team at how well we can stick together and still be in the medals when we are against some very, very solid teams – not that we aren’t one … it’s just not our priority right now to be in that peak condition that we’ll hopefully be in for Paris. It’s always great to be a part of team Great Britain.”


Men’s 100m freestyle semi-finals

Women’s 50m backstroke – semi-finals

Women’s 200m butterfly – semi-finals

Men’s 200m medley – semi-finals

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