Australia has set the pool alight at the world swimming championships, with four gold medals and two world records on the opening night in Fukuoka. Ariarne Titmus reclaimed her women's 400m freestyle world record, destroying Katie Ledecky and Summer McIntosh in a battle dubbed the 'race of the century'.
Canadian teenager McIntosh had snatched the world record in stunning circumstances earlier this year, but she was no match for Titmus on Sunday night. The Aussie star led from start to finish and clocked three minutes 55.38 seconds, bettering McIntosh's world mark of 3:56.08 set in March.
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It was the first time in history that any woman has gone under 3:56 in the event. Titmius, Ledecky and McIntosh have all held the world record in the past 18 months, but Titmus set herself apart in staggering scenes on Sunday night.
"I honestly didn't think about getting the world record back, it wasn't something that I had my mind on for this meet at all," she said. "I just wanted to come here and try and swim the way I felt I was capable of swimming - and it was obviously enough to get the record back."
The Queenslander has the word 'fearless' tattooed on her right foot. "I can see it right before I dive," she said. "To swim like that and swim really free and fearless, I feel really over the moon to get that one."
Mollie O'Callaghan, Shayna Jack, Meg Harris and Emma McKeon then broke their own world record in the women's 4x100m relay, bettering the mark they set at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Australia's men's relay team of Jack Cartwright, Flynn Southam, Kai Taylor and Kyle Chalmers also took the gold to cap an incredible night.
This is UNHEARD OF! 🤯
The Aussie women have SMASHED the World Record and claimed the 4x100m Freestyle Relay for the 3rd time in a row! 😱🥇🇦🇺
🖥️ #Fukuoka23 | Free on Channel 9 & 9Now, July 23-30.#Swimming #9WWOS pic.twitter.com/bI4dkebP3H
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) July 23, 2023
Sam Short also won gold in the men's 400m freestyle - the first time in history that Australia has done the double in the event at a world championships. Short joined Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Kieren Perkins as Aussie winners of the event, posting the fourth-fastest winning time ever with 3:40.68.
"They're my heroes," Short said. "I couldn't wait to get on the lane rope and start flexing, to be honest. It's what you dream about as a young guy."
Swimming world in awe of 'insane' Aussie heroics
Chalmers and McKeon were blown away by Australia's golden night in the pool. "I sat there with goosebumps all night," Chalmers said. "(For) Ariarne to break a world record and then the (relay) girls break a world record, I don't think Australia could ask for a better night.
"I have been on world championships teams where we have probably struggled to win four medals for the whole competition, let alone four gold medals on the first night. Shorty (Sam Short) ... we have sat there for the last two weeks watching him dominate training and talk the big game. And for him to deliver was that spine-tingling moment."
McKeon added: "Two world records. Four golds. It's just, like, nuts. I was in the call room for my 100 'fly semi when Sam was swimming. And you get the goosebumps all through you - to have people swimming that quickly for your team just lifts your team up."
The only dampener on the night was Kaylee McKeown's disqualification in the women's 200m medley semi-finals. The Olympic silver medallist was disqualified for a stroke violation in her transition from backstroke to breastroke, and Australia's subsequent appeal was rejected.
McKeon and Brianna Throssell qualified for the women's 100m butterfly final fourth and seventh-fastest, while Zac Stubblety-Cook was ranked 12th in the men's 100m breaststroke semi-finals and missed a berth in the medal race.
Brendon Smith was fifth in a men's 400m individual medley final won by Frenchman Leon Marchand, who broke the longest-standing world record in swimming. Marchand touched in 4:02.50, eclipsing Michael Phelps' mark of 4:03.84 from the 2008 Olympics.
What a swim by Ariarne Titmus !
What a statement !!
Sensational world record. pic.twitter.com/2fY9QRx0JU
— The Oracle (@BigOtrivia) July 23, 2023
That is insane by Titmus!!! She’s gone a full second quicker than her old WR. I did not think she had that time in her.
— Tom O'Neil (@thomasjameoneil) July 23, 2023
— Lachlan McKirdy (@LMcKirdy7) July 23, 2023
Wow the 4x100 women’s team are a real dynasty
— Edgar Boyacs (@EBoyacs) July 23, 2023
THE WOMEN'S 4X100M RELAY TEAM SMASH ANOTHER WORLD RECORD AND WIN GOLD!
LOOK AT THE GAP TO SECOND!
3:27.96... MY GOD. 💚💛
📸 - Channel 9 pic.twitter.com/cgODVPiCZc
— ABC SPORT (@abcsport) July 23, 2023
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