Liam John Tancock (born 7 May 1985) is an English former competitive swimmer who represented Great Britain in the Olympics, FINA world championships, and European championships, and England in the Commonwealth Games. He specialised in backstroke and individual medley events. He is a three-time world champion and a four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and held the world record in the 50-metre backstroke (long course) for almost a decade.
Born on 7 May 1985, his first experience of swimming was waiting poolside while his older brother was learning to swim at a swimming school. Tancock was competing in local swimming competitions by the age of nine. Tancock played for Exeter Chiefs rugby team as a winger until he was thirteen. His coach, Jon Randall, convinced him to choose swimming over rugby. He attended Loughborough College where he studied sports science and was awarded with a degree validated by Loughborough University.
As a junior for the Exeter Swimming Club, he competed at the British Winter Championship in 2000 at the age of 15. He broke four records and won more medals than any junior under the age of 16 had before him.
He followed this with a gold medal at the 2001 Youth Olympic Games.
Two golds in 2002 at the World Schools Championships.
At the Japan International Open in August 2007, he won two gold medals. The first was in the 100m backstroke, which broke the European record time, and his second was in the 200m individual medley with a time of 1:59.19, which was only the second time he had finished with a time of under two minutes. It was a new British record, beating the previous record by a second and a half.
Tancock won several medals at the 2008 World Short Course Championships in Manchester, including a British, European and Commonwealth record time of 50:14 to take the gold medal in the 100m backstroke. The time was only 0.14 seconds off the world record set by American Ryan Lochte. He also won silver in the 50m backstroke and 200m medley.
Competing at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing in the men's 100m backstroke, Tancock finished in sixth position with a time of 53.39, some 0.21 seconds behind the bronze medal position. He also competed in the 200m individual medley, finishing in 8th place with a time of 2:00.76. His preferred event, the 50m backstroke, is not an Olympic event. Tancock said of the lack of a 50m event, "There is a 50m at every other major competition bar the Olympics. Don’t ask me why, but it never has been. It is not an issue but, of course, I would like it to be there".
He broke his own world record winning the gold medal for 50m backstroke at the 2009 World Aquatics Championships. He had set a time of 24.08 in the semi finals, but improved it with a time of 24.04 in the final. It was the second gold of the event for the British team, who took home their best ever tally of seven medals in total. He wore a bodyskin swimsuit which was subsequently banned by FINA at the start of 2010.
In the 50m backstroke event at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, he took the gold medal once more, breaking the Commonwealth Games record with a time of 24.62 in the final. He also took a second Commonwealth gold in the 100m backstroke with a time of 53.59. As of 2010, he was ranked second in the world for the 50m backstroke and third for the 100m, and following his success at the Commonwealth Games he was named BBC South West's Sportsman of the Year 2010.
At the 2011 World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, Tancock retained his world championship crown with a time of 24.5 seconds in the 50m backstroke. It was the second occasion a British male swimmer had retained a world championship title, and he became the first man to retain the 50m backstroke title. He finished sixth in the 100m backstroke with a time of 52.76.
On 5 March 2012, Tancock won the 100m backstroke final at the British trials with a time of 53.16 seconds in the event held at the London Aquatics Centre. The victory qualified him for the 2012 Summer Olympics as part of the British team as the top two of each race qualified automatically. Whilst competing at the venue, which was the swimming venue at the 2012 Games, he did not find the controversial ceiling and lighting set up distracting, putting it down to the training he conducted for the 2009 World Championships, which were held outside. As part of his training regime for the Games, he took up ballet, kickboxing and rock climbing in order to improve on his position of sixth at the 2008 Games. He also pushed around his coach's car in order to improve his stamina and transfer his 50m backstroke form to the 100m event. Despite this, Tancock missed out on a medal as he finished fifth in the men's 100m backstroke final in a time of 53.35 seconds. He was also part of the Great Britain team that finished fourth in the 4 × 100 m medley relay, where they finished 32 milliseconds behind the Australian team in third. In November 2020, it was reported that Australia's Brenton Rickard tested positive for a banned substance which could lead to the GB Team being awarded a retrospective bronze medal.
Tancock achieved the World Championships qualifying time, but the team coach only choose swimmers who had a chance of being at Rio 2016. As a result of the 50m backstroke not being an event at the Olympics, Tancock was not selected for the team.
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Tancock won bronze medals in the men's 50 metre backstroke and the 100 metre backstroke and helped England to win the 4 x 100 metre medley.
Personal bests and records held
- Long course (50 m)
|100 m freestyle||48.76||19 Mar 2009||British Championships||Sheffield, United Kingdom|||
|50 m backstroke||24.04||Former WR||2 Aug 2009||World Championships||Rome, Italy|||
|100 m backstroke||52.73||NR||28 Jul 2009||World Championships||Rome, Italy|||
|200 m individual medley||1:57.79||1 Apr 2008||British Championships||Sheffield, United Kingdom|||
- Short course (25 m)
|50 m backstroke||23.10||NR||7 Aug 2009||Grand Prix||Leeds, United Kingdom|||
|100 m backstroke||50.14||CR, ER, NR||10 Apr 2008||World SC Championships||Manchester, United Kingdom|||
|100 m individual medley||52.22||NR||13 Apr 2008||World SC Championships||Manchester, United Kingdom|||
|200 m individual medley||1:53.10||NR||11 Apr 2008||World SC Championships||Manchester, United Kingdom|||
Records not set in finals: h – heat; sf – semifinal; r – relay 1st leg; rh – relay heat 1st leg; b – B final; † – en route to final mark; tt – time trial
Liam is the younger of 2 boys born for mum Kim; his brother is 2 years older. His "fatboy" nickname originated from his older brother, although he didn't mean it in a negative sense. He currently trains at and swims for Loughborough University. He is a supporter of Exeter City association football club, and Exeter Chiefs Rugby club Liam is now trained as a level two swimming coach. Over his career he has been an ambassador for Speedo from 2006 to 2012, For Goodness Shakes, and Gilette.
- List of Commonwealth Games medallists in swimming (men)
- World record progression 50 metres backstroke
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- "4x100m medley relay men results – Swimming – London 2012 Olympics". www.olympic.org. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
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- Inverdale, John (27 February 2008). "Caitlin McClatchey's sacrifices for Olympics". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- "Caitlin McClatchey". Glasgow 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- Swarbrick, Susan (6 April 2013). "Swimming: Games girl". HeraldScotland.com. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- Personal Website
- Liam Tancock on Twitter
- British Swimming athlete profile
- British Olympic Association Profile
- British Swimming results and rankings database entry[permanent dead link]
| Men's 50-metre backstroke
2 April – 5 December 2008
1 August 2009 – 4 August 2018