University of Alabama swimmer Zane Waddell took the gold medal in the 50-meter backstroke at the Fina World Championships on Sunday in Gwangju, South Korea.

The Crimson Tide senior, competing for South Africa, touched the wall at 24.43 to finish ahead of the Russia’s Evgeny Rilov and Kliment Kolesnikov.

“The night really came together,” Waddell told “The warm up went really well. A lot of emotion at the end of that race. There is nothing I can describe: it has always been a dream of mine to be a world champion and it’s amazing to finally realise that dream and go out and achieve it.

“I knew it was going to be the closest race of my life. I have huge respect for the other seven competitors out there and it’s just an amazing spirit to have got my hand first to the wall, it just so happened to be me, it’s amazing.”

It’s been a breakthrough year for the Crimson Tide senior. Waddell won gold at the World University Games in the 50-meter backstroke earlier this month in Italy.

At the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, Waddell and teammates Laurent Bams, Knox Auerbach and Robert Howard won the 200 relay with a time of 1:22.26.

He took first place in numerous events his junior season, including the 100 backstroke, as part of the 200 and 400 freestyle, as well as the 200 medley relays at the SEC Championships.