Aussies in agonising near-misses as history made at swimming world championships

Shayna Jack and Elijah Winnington were at the centre of the dramatic scenes.

Australia's women's 4x100m relay team and Elijah Winnington, pictured here at the swimming world championships.

It was a frustrating night for Australia at the swimming world championships on Sunday, with Elijah Winnington and the women's 4x100m freestyle relay team left to rue gold medals that got away. Winnington produced a brilliant effort over the final length of the 400m freestyle final, but had to settle for silver behind Kim Woo-min of South Korea.

The Aussie was attempting to win back the world title he claimed in 2022, but fell agonisingly short. And it was the same with the relay women, who had been tipped to extend their dominance in the 4x100m despite being short of three-quarters of their world record-breaking quartet.

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Shayna Jack produced a commendable final leg, but was reeled in by the Dutch team. The female relay team is so accustomed to dominating that their defeat on the first day of the swimming program still came as a shock despite Brianna Throssell, Alex Perkins, Abbey Parkin and Jack barely resembled the 2023 line-up that shattered the world record.

On that occasion it was Jack alongside Mollie O'Callaghan, Meg Harris and Emma McKeon as the Aussies produced a landmark time of 3 minutes, 27.96 seconds in Fukuoka. On Sunday night, Jack produced a spectacular anchor leg to storm from fourth to first by the time they turned for home.

However she was overhauled by Marrit Steenbergen, who took gold in 3:36.61 for the Netherland. The Australians clocked 3:36.93 and Canada 3:37.95 for the bronze.

"Coming home with the silver medal for our country is something we are proud of," Jack said afterwards despite the disappointment of missing gold. "There is nothing better than hunting - therefore we will be hunting for the next six months toward the Olympics."

Jack appeared to use too much effort on her first 50m, going into the final turn in the lead after a blistering 25.01sec length. She paid for it as she came home in 27.63, while Steenbergen clocked 26.97.

As for Winnington, he had to concede gold by just 0.15 seconds after he surged from third at the final turn right onto the shoulder of Kim. The South Korean made the running inside world record pace for half the race. But though Winnington got past eventual bronze medallist Lukas Martens of Germany, and pulled back 0.62sec on Kim, he didn't quite time his dramatic push perfectly, finishing in 3min 42.86sec.

"This is just a stepping stone," he said." I came here to race, and the focus is on Paris (and the Olympics), but I'm happy where I am at."

Elijah Winnington, pictured here alongside Kim Woo-min and Lukas Martens.
Elijah Winnington alongside Kim Woo-min and Lukas Martens at the swimming world championships. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

History made at swimming world championships

The world championships are missing a plethora of the sport's biggest names due to how close they are taking place ahead of the Olympics. But a world record - and a prestigious one at that - was still broken on the opening day.

Chinese teenager Pan Zhanle swam the fastest 100m in history as he led off his country's gold medal-winning 4x100 freestyle relay team. His time of 46.80 seconds - with a split time of 22.26 - took six-hundredths off 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 Paris Olympics.

Zhanle Pan, Xinjie Ji, Zhanshuo Zhang and Haoyu Wang.

"Actually, I wasn't feeling in great form," Pan said after the race. "I would've been happy with just getting on the podium.

"This morning (in heats), the US, Great Britain and Italy were all quicker than us, and I just wanted to focus on doing my job well. I told myself, 'Just swim hard'. I was shocked when I saw the time, I wasn't expecting to break the record now - I wanted to leave it for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

And Erika Fairweather became the first ever gold medallist from New Zealand at a world championships, winning the women's 400 freestyle. Fairweather, who claimed bronze behind Ariarne Titmus and Katie Ledecky at last year's worlds, won in 3:59.44, 2.18sec ahead of Li Bingjie of China.

with AAP

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