Simply by taking place, the 2024 World Swimming Championships in Doha made history. The first Worlds to be contested during an Olympic year created a unique platform for the world’s top swimmers to match up less than six months before they do so again at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. 

Though many of the sport’s biggest names ­– Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel, Ariarne Titmus and Ryan Murphy among them – opted against competing at this year’s Championships to focus on training for Paris, several other stars took advantage of the opportunity to make an early-season statement.

American stars Claire Curzan, Kate Douglass and Hunter Armstrong all positioned themselves for big showings in Paris, while China, led by its world-record setter Pan Zhanle, also left Qatar with plenty of medals in tow. 

Here’s what we took away from the eight days in Doha. Click HERE for full event-by-event results.

Curzan sweeps backstroke events

No swimmer had a better showing in Doha than Claire Curzan. The 19-year-old rising star from Raleigh, NC, swept all three backstroke events (50m, 100m and 200m), becoming just the third swimmer ever to go three-for-three in one stroke at a single World Championships. 

She also flexed her versatility, winning a fourth gold medal swimming the butterfly leg of the United States’ mixed 4x100m medley relay team, along with a silver in the women’s 100m butterfly and a bronze as part of the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay. Curzan's six total medals led the meet.

Though Curzan certainly benefitted from the absences of other top backstroke swimmers, namely Australia’s Kaylee McKeown (who swept the backstroke events at the 2023 World Championships) and American teammate Regan Smith (second to McKeown in all three events in 2023), she successfully and emphatically threw her name into the mix for what shapes up to be one of the most loaded women’s backstroke Olympic fields of all-time.

Douglass turns busy schedule into hefty haul

Apart from Curzan, no U.S. swimmer was busier – or more successful – in Doha than Kate Douglass. The New York native raced four individual events and two relays, winning a medal in all but one event (she finished 4th, 0.19 off the podium, in the women’s 100m freestyle).

The versatile Douglass successfully defended her 2023 world title in the 200m IM, setting a personal-best time at two minutes, 7.05 seconds. She tacked on silver medals in the 50m freestyle (setting the American record) and 200m breaststroke, along with a pair of relay medals swimming freestyle and breaststroke for the Americans. 

The 22-year-old phenom entered the meet with more hype and expectations than any other swimmer in Doha and made the most of the stage, reinforcing the prospect of a special showing in Paris.

Pan sets standard for 100m freestyle

Only one world record fell across the entire eight days in Doha, and it happened to be in one of the sport’s marquee events. Pan Zhanle, racing as part of China’s 4x100m freestyle relay, finished his leadoff leg in 46.80, beating the all-time mark in the men’s 100m freestyle by 0.06 (official world records in individual events can be set by relay leadoff swimmers).

Along with three relay gold medals, Pan also took gold in the individual men’s 100m freestyle with a winning time of 47.53. 

Considering that Pan will likely have to face off against 2023 world champion Kyle Chalmers (AUS), former world record holder David Popovici (ROM) and defending Olympic gold medalist Dressel this summer, it seems a safe bet that world-record pace will be required to win gold in Paris.

Fink comes up big in breaststroke

In the absence of Qin Haiyang, China’s world-leading breaststroke specialist, Nic Fink took full advantage. The American found his way to the podium in all three men’s breaststroke events, including a gold medal in the 100m distance. Fink also tacked on a pair of medley relay golds and firmly established himself as one of the biggest threats to Qin in Paris.

Sjostrom still a champion

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, one of the most decorated swimmers of all time, demonstrated that she’s still the fastest woman in water by winning gold in the 50m freestyle splash and dash. She also secured a world title in the non-Olympic 50m butterfly event to bring her all-time Worlds tally to 14 golds. The 30-year-old has had less good fortune in Olympic competition, but is well-positioned to make a run at at least one more gold medal in Paris to cap off a legendary career.