Chile’s Kristel Kobrich became the first swimmer to compete in 10 FINA World Championships on Sunday when she raced the heats of the 1500 freestyle, advancing to Monday’s final with a 16:13.52 as the eighth seed.
Kobrich first competed in the FINA World Championships in Barcelona at 17. Now age 36, she breaks the tie she had with Laszlo Cseh, Federica Pellegrini, and Angela Maurer as the only swimmer to race in more than nine world championships.
“A lot of enthusiasm, a lot of work,” Kobrich said after her 1500 heat. “It’s been a long way but it doesn’t mean I’m finished. I just want to try something more and I am very proud of being on this level until… I don’t know when. But it has been a long way. To be a constant, it is very hard work and I am very proud of it.”
Kobrich’s first Worlds were way back in 2003 when Michael Phelps was only 18 years old and Hannah Stockbauer won the World title at 16:00.18. Over Kobrich’s career, the 1500 free world record has dropped from Janet Evans’ 15:52.10 to Katie Ledecky’s 15:20.48.
A lot has changed in the sport, but Kobrich’s presence remains. It is a testament to her hard work and discipline in the sport.
“We all grow up and we are all different and that’s something I am proud of and I am trying to be a better sports person and a better person every day.”
Kobrich has never reached the podium at the World Championships but has competed in the 1500m freestyle final six straight times from 2007 to 2017, finishing as high as fourth in 2009 and in 2011. Now she will make her seventh 1500 final, as she is 11 years older than the next oldest competitor - Viviane Jungblut of Brazil, and 20 years older than the youngest in the field - USA’s Katie Grimes, who was born after Kobrich had secured two trips to the Worlds in 2006.
It’s the passion for the sport that is keeping Kobrich going.
“I love swimming and it’s an honour and a privilege. I have a lot of responsibility to be on this level and to be an athlete for generations.”