Argentine swimmer triumphs at Fukuoka World Aquatics Masters Championship, breaking records in 100m freestyle

The scent of chlorine seemed to fade, replaced by the raw smell of competition. My muscles, primed and ready, received the message from my brain: it’s time. I unleashed an explosion of speed.

  • 9 months ago
  • September 3, 2023
5 min read
Virginia holding two of her medals | Photo Courtesy of Virgina Garrone team Virginia holding two of her medals | Photo Courtesy of Virgina Garrone team
Interview Subject
María Virginia Garrone, a 44-year-old Olympic swimmer and mother of three from Bellvillian, clinched the World Masters Championship title in the 45-49 age category with a 100-meter freestyle time of 1m02s05. The event took place in Japan, where she bested 59 competitors, including Greece’s Georgina Chatzigeorgiou and Hong Kong’s Shauna Krkalo.

Garrone overcame career-threatening injuries before the Sydney 2000 Olympics and later resumed swimming after starting a family. She holds over 30 national records and works as a coach. Notably, she’s the only South American to win eight golds in a South American Championship (Peru 1994) and the sole Argentinean to earn 15 golds in a National Championship (2002). Her championship time in Japan demonstrates her enduring skill, just short of her personal best of 58s22 achieved at 16 during the Pan American Games in 1995.
Background Context
Selected in January 2016 by the then-named International Swimming Federation (FINA), Fukuoka served as the host city for the 2023 World Aquatics Championships. This marks the second time in 22 years that Fukuoka has hosted the global event, having previously done so in 2001.

In a significant organizational move, FINA rebranded itself as World Aquatics in December 2023. The event ran for 17 days from July 14 to July 30, 2023, taking advantage of Fukuoka’s compact urban layout to maximize both event value and operational efficiency.

FUKUOKA, Japan — The moment I burst through the water’s surface in Fukuoka, I let out a scream of triumph, electrifying the stadium. My eyes caught my glowing name next to the coveted number one on the scoreboard, and a tidal wave of joy surged through me, tingling every nerve.

As my teammates wrapped their arms around me, the warmth of their jubilant hugs and shouts confirmed the reality of my victory. With my ears still ringing from their enthusiastic affirmations, I swiveled to face the crowd. There, a kaleidoscope of Argentinian flags waved in the air, each piece of fabric synchronizing with the euphoric roar like an anthem of triumph.

For me, water is more than just a medium—it is my sanctuary.

Read more sports stories at Orato World Media

From Olympic dreams to motherhood and back: water feels like home

I stepped onto my first podium at the age of four, guided by a local swim instructor. From that day forward, I committed myself to swimming. As a child, I dreamed of the Olympics. I boldly declared, “I want to swim,” and that’s exactly what I did.

During my early peak years, I dominated the pool like no other. At the 1994 South American Championship in Peru, I grabbed the spotlight as the only swimmer to snatch eight gold medals. Eight years later, in 2002, I set another milestone by becoming the only Argentinean to secure 15 golds at a National Championship. The water felt like home, and the thrill of victory was intoxicating.

Then life presented a different kind of challenge—raising three children. For a decade, the pool took a backseat as I embraced motherhood. It wasn’t until my youngest turned four that I felt the pull of the water once again. With eyes set on masters-level competition, I dived back into a rigorous training regimen that went beyond mere laps in the pool. It involved CrossFit sessions, specialized jump and reaction exercises, and countless hours of refining my strokes.

Comeback captivated the world at Fukuoka’s Aquatic Masters Championship, swimmer proves faster than ever at 100m freestyle

Fast forward to the World Masters Championship in Fukuoka. In the 100-meter freestyle, the tension felt palpable as we took our marks. The water shimmered under the stadium lights, awaiting the onslaught of churning limbs. I plunged in, absorbed by the cool embrace of the pool, each stroke propelling me forward.

As the final 30 meters approached, my senses heightened. The distant cheers from the crowd melded into a single roaring wave of sound. The water felt like a liquid runway beneath me. The scent of chlorine seemed to fade, replaced by the raw smell of competition. My muscles, primed and ready, received the message from my brain: it’s time. I unleashed an explosion of speed. My arms cut through the water with precision. Within those electrifying moments, I catapulted from fourth to first. Breaching the finish line, the crowd erupted in cheers.

This was a monumental mental triumph. That nail-biting finish reflected years of honed skills. I developed an ability to manage both my physical and emotional stamina under intense pressure. My performance in Fukuoka was a defining chapter. I clinched first place in both the 100-meter freestyle and 50-meter butterfly, smashing national and continental records in the process.

I also secured a hard-fought second in the 50-meter freestyle and was a key player in our record-shattering relay teams. In the 100-meter freestyle, my time of 1m02s05 outstripped 59 other swimmers. This echoed my past triumph at the Pan American Games when I was just 16.

Athlete reflects on conquering new summits, each race is a stepping stone

I powerful memory comes to mind from the COVID-19 Pandemic. When pools were off-limits, I felt like a lion confined in a cage. Yearning for the feel of water against my skin, the enforced absence deepened my connection to swimming.

In my career, I’ve harvested more than just gold medals and shattered records. Along the way, I’ve formed friendships that are as enduring as the laps I’ve swum. More importantly, I’ve come to understand the intricate relationship between sport and health. This revelation has become my guiding star. From the starry-eyed young girl dreaming of Olympic glory to the accomplished athlete I am today, each race is a steppingstone.

The swell of global support amplifies my drive like nothing else. Messages, photos, and accounts of entire families watching my race have flooded my inbox. I visualize their faces—flush with emotion and framed by fluttering Argentinean flags—and this vision isn’t merely heartwarming; it infuses me with a renewed zeal to excel.

Now, as I sit, clutching my medals, I travel back in time to my first taste of victory: I see my four-year-old self, standing on that podium, a mix of awe and elation in my eyes. It’s a moment for introspection. I’ve scaled the peaks I set out to conquer, proudly wearing the title of world champion. So what’s the next chapter in this extraordinary saga? The answer is crystal clear: as always, my eyes are trained on even higher summits.

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