| No. of participating countries: 175

| No. of athletes: 2438

The FINA World Championships was hosted by the Italian capital again between 17 July and 2 August 2009 after 15 years. The so-called shiny swimsuits era reached its peak in that summer (made waves before and during the 13th World Championships and the US led group of countries forced FINA to ban the suits from 2010) so a never-seen number of world records were set in the pool. The medal table was again topped by the USA.

In the history of FINA World Championships, the event hosted by Rome in 2009 has been the most highly attended so far. A total of 2438 athletes entered, and this record has not been broken ever since.

Except from open water events taking place at Ostia in the Tyrrhenian Sea, all other events were staged in the magnificent Foro Italico sports complex north of Rome, established for the 1960 Olympics.

Thanks to TV broadcasting, the event was followed in 197 countries and courtesy of the Italian TV channel in charge, RAI, HD broadcast was available for the first time in the history of Worlds.

The medal table was again topped by the USA, clinching 11 gold, 11 silver and 7 bronze medals, runner-up China claimed 11 gold, 7 silver and 11 bronze while Russia was third with 8 gold, 8 silver and 4 bronze. Altogether 197 medals were claimed by athletes of 30 countries.

After a less outstanding performance in Melbourne, the Hungarian squad did a great job in Rome. Katinka Hosszú claimed a gold and 2 bronze medals, Dániel Gyurta clinched a gold, László Cseh collected a silver and a bronze this time.

The swimming tournament did not even start yet, when huge fights broke out – around the negotiating table. Special swimsuits made of polyurethane were launched in 2008 resulting in heated debates between supporters and opponents. Five weeks prior to the World Champs, on 19 May FINA published the list of swimsuits allowed at the tournament from then on. World records (altogether 6) achieved in swimsuits not listed there were eliminated. Still, a total of 43 world, 105 World Championships and 57 European records were set in Rome – a never-scene scenario, and some of those top times are yet to be beaten even today.

German swimmer Paul Biederman’ efforts are one of those still-standing world records. First, he excelled in 400m freestyle breaking the famous 3:40.08 record of Ian Thorpe set in 2002 by one hundredth. Then he beat Michael Phelps in the 200m, breaking Phelps’ previous world record. The swimming suit made entirely of polyurethane worn by the German swimmer raised huge disputes and this incident contributed to its prohibition greatly. Still, Michael Phelps clinched a couple of medals as he won both the 100m and 200m butterfly and finished first in all three relays collecting 5 gold altogether in addition to his silver as the runner-up to Biedermann.

Fellow American Ryan Lochte won two individual events too. He finished first in 200m and 400m medley and participated in two freestyle relays, so altogether he had 4 gold and a bronze medal, in 200m backstroke. László Cseh finished behind Lochte in both events, in 200m he was the runner-up while in 400m he was placed third.

Brazilian César Cielo claimed two individual golds in this edition by doubling down his pet sprint events. In the 100m, he became the first man ever to go under 47sec – like everyone else, he achieved the dream time of 46.91 wearing the special suit.

A 20-year-old Hungarian Dániel Gyurta achieved his first outstanding result in Rome. By winning the 200m breaststroke (2:07.64, new European record), a highly successful series kicked off as he proved to be unbeatable at the next two editions, in Shanghai 2011 and in Barcelona 2013 and he became Olympic champion in London 2012 in. The final was quite exciting as runner-up American Eric Shanteau touched in 0.01sec behind the Hungarian.

Among the women, German Britta Steffen and Italian Federica Pellegrini could claim doubles this time. The German swimmer clinched gold in the 50m and 100m whereas the Italian finished first in the 200m and 400m.

Hungary’s Katinka Hosszú claimed her first long course world title in the 400m medley with a new personal best of 4:30.31, and soon she the most dominating female IM swimmers in history. She claimed bronze in 200m butterfly and 200m medley as well.

Due to unfavourable weather conditions – a heavy storm indeed destroyed the course on the eve of the championships –, open water events in Ostia were delayed by two days. Germans proved to be the most successful clinching 3 gold medals. By winning the 5km and 10km events Thomas Lurz contributed greatly to this success. Fellow German Angela Maurer became champion among the women in the 25 km. The remaining three titles went to Italy, UK and Australia. 

Chinese divers excelled again winning 7 out of 10 gold medals and claiming half of all available medals (14 out of 30). Among the man, rising British prodigy, 15-year old Tom Daley added another astonishing win to his European title from a year earlier, as he managed to grab gold ahead of the Chinese in the platform event. As for women, Russian diver Julia Pakhalina could clinch gold in 1m, and Mexican diver Paola Espinosa claimed gold in 10m somewhat balancing the Chinese dominance.

As expected, synchro was dominated by Russia. Except for the free combination, won by the Spanish in the absence of the emperors, all events were topped by the Russians. Natalia Ishchenko claimed four world titles herself, she finished first in both of her solo events as well as the free duet and the free team routine. For the record, Spaniards collected 5 silver medals and they finished first in the free combo with runner-up team China.

Serbia beat Spain in the men’s water polo final which, for the first time, was decided in a penalty shootout. Title-holder Croatian team claimed bronze this time. Hungary almost caught the Serbs en route but faded after leading 7-5 in the quarters. The US women team defended its title by beating Canada 7-6 in the final. In the bronze match Russia could beat Greece. In a sharp contrast to Rome 1994, the Italian water polo teams’ performances ended in a catastrophe as neither could even make the top eight.