It all came down to 24.18 seconds. THEMAGIC5 swimmer and four-time Olympian Kasia Wasick of Poland, who trains in Las Vegas, Nevada, took home the silver medal in the women’s 50 meter freestyle from the 19th FINA World Championships in Budapest. Wasick rejoined the world of professional swimming in 2018 after retiring with and injury post 2016 Olympics and has been swimming faster than ever. A freestyle sprint specialist, it was her first long-course international medal.
“I knew I was in good shape and I had a strong goal and mindset that I feel like nothing would be in my way to get a medal except my own health,” says Wasick. Managing to say healthy throughout the preliminary and semi-final rounds, Wasick went into the final as the fastest qualifier with a time of 24.11 seconds. While she gained confidence from swimming a personal best time in the semi-finals, Wasick says it was having her family there to watch and support her that gave her the biggest boost.
“The last time my parents saw me racing at a big meet was twelve years ago before I moved to the States. Just seeing them I was so happy and it made me even calmer. It just pushed the extra button,” Wasick explains. “In the final I wasn’t stressed that much, I was just happy. I knew I was going to do my best and I didn’t think about the final outcome. I was just like, I’m going to swim and it’s going to be awesome."
Wasick walked onto the deck for the 50 meter final in a pink racing suit with matching pink goggles. “Everything that happens before the race, the moments before I step on the block, it’s slow motion for me. I really remember every detail—what I do, where I look. But the actual thirty-seconds of stepping on the block and racing, it’s a blur,” Wasick says. The race came down to Wasick and Swedish favorite Sarah Sjoestroem. Off the blocks, Wasick was ahead but, breaking out of the water later, Sjoestroem joined Wasick ahead of the other six swimmers. It came down to the touch and it was Sjoestroem first and Wasick second, a mere two-one-hundredths of a second between them.
“When I touched the wall I was just super happy to get my first long course world championship medal. It was just amazing,” Wasick says. “At my age, I appreciate every opportunity to race on a big stage and get a lane in the finals and just experience that atmosphere. It’s something special that I didn’t recognize when I was younger. I didn’t appreciate it when I was younger so I put a smile on my face and I was just happy that after all these years I can still do it.”
Not only did she win the silver medal, but the 30-year-old broke her own national record and is the first Polish woman to make the 50 meter final at the world championship level. Among so many positive outcomes, Wasick says it was the podium ceremony that was the most memorable.
“The victory ceremony was the most special moment because I didn’t expect [to be in the ceremony]. So many emotions came to my body and seeing my family in the stand was priceless. At that point, I didn’t care about the medal but that chance to see them proud of me—that’s something I train for, the moments like this. When I stepped on the podium and saw my family being really proud of me, that just crushed my soul, I was just so happy. That was the happiest moment of my career.”