Sunday, February 25, 2024

World record smashed as Aussie rue missed golds

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Australia’s Dolphins have been left reflecting on golds that got away on the opening day in the pool programme at the world swimming championships.

Elijah Winnington and a shadow women’s 4x100m freestyle relay squad both had to settle for silver in Doha after their dramatic late surges were repelled on Sunday.

Winnington produced a magnificent effort over the final length of the 400m freestyle final, only to come up fractionally short behind South Korea’s Kim Woo-min in his bid to regain the title he won in 2022.

Then the relay women, who had been expected to maintain their dominance in the 4×100 despite being short of three-quarters of their world record-shattering quartet, also couldn’t quite claw back a Dutch lead despite a sterling effort on the last leg from Shayna Jack.

Winnington had to concede gold by just 0.15 seconds after he’d roared from third at the final turn right on to the shoulder of Kim, who’d made the running inside world record pace for half the race.

Elijah Winnington was pipped for gold by South Korean athlete Kim Woo-min.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

But though Winnington got past eventual bronze medallist, Germany’s Lukas Martens, and pulled back 0.62sec on Kim, he didn’t quite time his dramatic push perfectly, finishing in 3 minutes 42.86 seconds.

Not that the 23-year-old Gold Coast star sounded too worried.

“This is just a stepping stone,” he said.

“I came here to race, and the focus is on [the Olympics in] Paris, but I’m happy where I am at.”

That’s understandable as the 2022 Budapest champion Winnington made big improvements on his seventh place at last year’s championships, when his Australian compatriot Sam Short took the gold.

Short was just one of many of the sport’s luminaries giving the championships a miss in Olympic year, but this 400 remained a high-quality affair, with Tunisia’s Olympic champ Ahmed Hafnaoui not even making the final.

Australia’s women are so accustomed to dominating that their relay defeat still came as a shock even if Brianna Throssell, Alex Perkins, Abbey Parkin and Jack barely resembled the 2023 line-up that shredded the world record books.

Jack, the four-time world champion, was the only one involved in the Dolphins’ landmark 3min 27.96sec swim in Fukuoka, accompanied by Mollie O’Callaghan, Meg Harris and Emma McKeon.

Australia's women's team talk

Team Australia are normally a shoe-in for the gold medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay.(Getty Images: Adam Nurkiewicz)

But determined to keep their supremacy going, Jack produced a spectacular anchor leg to storm from fourth to first by the time they turned for home, only to be overhauled by Marrit Steenbergen, who took gold in 3:36.61. The Australians clocked 3:36.93 and Canada 3:37.95.

“Coming home with the silver medal for our country is something we are proud of,” said Jack.

“There is nothing better than hunting — therefore we will be hunting for the next six months toward the Olympics.”

Jaclyn Barclay, who had swum in the morning heats, was replaced for the final by Throssell, who won her 13th world championship relay medal and will on Monday seek to annex her first individual gong after finishing fastest qualifier for the 100m butterfly final. Perkins also qualified in eighth spot.

Jack may have expended too much effort on her first 50 as she went into the final turn in the lead after a blistering 25.01sec length. She perhaps paid for that as she came home in 27.63, while Steenbergen clocked 26.97.

In the 50m butterfly, Isaac Cooper and Cameron McEvoy qualified in fourth and sixth place, respectively for Monday’s final, while Sam Williamson made it as seventh quickest into the 100m breaststroke final, in which British great Adam Peaty will start fastest (58.60sec).

Meanwhile, teenager Pan Zhanle swam the fastest 100m in history as he led off China’s gold medal-winning 4×100 freestyle relay team on Sunday.

Xinjie Ji and Zhanle Pan celebrate

Pan Zhanle (right) swam the fastest long course 100m freestyle ever leading off China’s victorious 4x100m freestyle relay team.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

His time of 46.80 seconds — with a split time of 22.26 — took six hundredths off Romanian David Popovici’s world record from 2022 and established the 19-year-old as one to beat in swimming’s marquee race at this year’s Olympics.

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