Your 2019 African Male Swimmer of the Year, South African Zane Waddell, had a breakout year in 2019. The 21-year-old progressed quickly from SEC Champion, to NCAA Champion, to World University Games champion, all the way to World champion in just 5 months.
At the 2019 SEC Championships, Waddell contributed to Alabama’s title-winning 200 medley relay, thanks to his #2 all-time 50 back lead-off split (20.22). He also won an individual title in the 100 back (44.77). Just a month later, Waddell joined teammates Laurent Bams, Knox Auerbach, and Robert Howard to win the 200 medley relay NCAA title (1:22.26).
After the NCAA season, Waddell switched to representing his home country of South Africa at both the 2019 World University Games (WUGs) and 2019 World Championships. During his WUGs run, Waddell and American Justin Ress had a buzzworthy battle in the 50 back, both trading off holding the Universiade meet record. During the 50 back final, Waddell and Ress tied for the gold medal.
Yet Waddell’s biggest moment of 2019 was at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. During the 50 back final, Waddell surprised the entire world when he became a World champion out of lane 2 and upset Russians Evgeny Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov.
With the win, Waddell becomes the only swimmer besides Chad le Clos to win the award in its 7-year history.
BY NICK PECORARO (SwimSwam)