| No. of participating countries: 34
| No. of athletes: 1119
Once again, the Old Continent welcomed the best of aquatics in 1986 in Madrid. The East German women dominated the swimming events, Hungarian legend Tamás Darnyi collected two gold medals among the men. FINA included the women’s water polo tournament for the first time in the World Championships’ programme. Diving super star, Greg Louganis defended his two titles and Canadian synchronised swimmers reached glory. It all happened in Madrid, in 1986.
A total of 1.119 athletes of the aquatic disciplines competed in 41 sessions in the Spanish capital in 1986 at the 5th FINA World Championships.
In swimming, the 50m freestyle events and the women’s 4×200m freestyle relay were contested for the first time, so was the water polo tournament for women, one year after the first European Championships in Oslo.
The main venue of these World Championships was the M86-Center, opened in May of 1986, constructed specifically for the FINA Event. This great complex itself soon won a gold medal as the best facility for aquatic sports (awarded by the National Pool, Washington, Unites States), the European Aquatics Championships were held here 18 years later, in 2004.
Madrid was the last World Championships to see the overwhelming East German domination in women’s swimming: the team collected 14 gold, 12 silver and 4 bronze medals, reaching the first place on the medal table, while the United States came in second with 9 gold, 10 silver and 13 bronze medals, and Canada – thanks to the great synchronised swimmers – reached the third position in the rankings (with four gold, two silver and two bronze medals).
Among women, swimmers from East Germany gained 13 titles from the 16 events, only Tamara Costache from Romania (50m freestyle), American Betsy Michell (100m backstroke) and Mary T. Heagher (200m butterfly) were able to clinch golds in Madrid besides them.
The men’s field was more colourful, East Germany only won the 4x200m freestyle relay event, while West Germany excelling its neighbour, winner of 1500m freestyle, Rainer Henkel won the 400m freestyle final as well.
Canadian Victor Davis won the 100m breaststroke final, he was the World Champion over 200m four years before. In Madrid, he was only the second fastest swimmer over the longer breaststroke distance, József Szabó from Hungary beat him in the 20m final, winning one out of the three Hungarian gold medals; the other two went to Tamás Darnyi (200 and 400m individual medley).
American Matt Biondi was another star in Madrid, he triumphed in the 100m freestyle and was member of the winning American team in the 4×100 freestyle and medley relays. Biondi even collected one silver (100m butterfly) and three bronze medals (50 and 200m freestyle and 4×200 freestyle relay) in the Spanish capital. Two years later in Seoul he collected an astonishing 5 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medals, and all in all he has 11 Olympic medals.
Igor Polyansky from the Soviet Union also made an impressive performance with 2 golds (100 and 200m backstroke). In total, 16 nations collected at least one medal in the swimming events of the 5th FINA World Championships in 1986.
Title-holder Greg Louganis did not disappoint the crowds in diving, he triumphed in both his events. However, a new power emerged at this edition – though the Chinese silver medallists were not able to get close his scores (3m: 750.06-692.28, 10m: 668.58-624.33), while the bronze went to another Chinese (3m) and another American (10m) diver.
With these two golds Louganis reached his 4th and 5th world titles, just to become a double Olympic champion two years later at the Seoul Games.
Among the women China achieved double success: on 3m Gao Min won the gold (later she became an Olympic Champion in 1988 and 1992) while on 10m Chen Lin stood on the top of the Madrid podium
It was not the first time in the history of the FINA World Championships that Canadian and American synchro swimmers fought for the titles in all three events. Finally, it was Canada who won all three gold medals. Caroly Waldo won in solo, in duet (woth Michelle Cameron) and in the team’s competition, she was the first Canadian woman winning two Olympic gold medals two years later in Seoul.
The silver medal went to Sarah Josephson (from the Unites States) in solo and in duet (with her twin sister, Karen) while French Muriel Hermine collected the solo bronze and Japan came in third in the team event.
In water polo, among the men, Yugoslavia gained its first world title following a spectacular and memorable final against Italy. This final is one of the longest and most impressive games in the history of water polo with four (!) extra time periods. (The final result: Yugoslavia – Italy: 12-11 (1-2, 0-2, 4-2, 2-1, and ET: 1-0, 1-2, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 0-1, 2-0)
Before, Yugoslavia beat the Soviet Union (8-7), while Italy triumphed by one goal over the United States in the semi-finals. (Surprisingly, Hungary was beaten twice during the group stage and got its worst-ever ranks in history by finishing 9th.)
FINA included women in the World Championships’ water polo competition programme for the first time in 1986: nine teams divided into two groups entered the competition in Madrid. Finally, Australia won the first gold medal, while silver went to the Netherlands and the Unites States collected the bronze.