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Iona Anderson stuns at swimming world championships in Kaylee McKeown's absence

The Australian teenager claimed a silver medal with a personal best in the 100m backstroke.

Iona Anderson.
Iona Anderson claimed a surprise silver medal at the swimming world championships. Image: Getty/World Aquatics

Australian teenager Iona Anderson has filled the shoes of Kaylee McKeown with aplomb at the swimming world championships, claiming a surprise silver medal in the 100m backstroke in Doha. The 18-year-old from Western Australia powered to second place in the final on Tuesday night (Wednesday Aussie time), with fellow teenager Claire Curzan of America taking the gold.

Anderson set a new personal best, touching the wall in 59.12 seconds behind a dominant Curzan (58.29), who is only 19. "I am just grateful to be here on this team and to have the chance to race," Anderson said after the race. "It's given me a little boost before Olympic trials, and to just be on the world stage is incredible."

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The Australian team is missing some of its biggest names due to how close the world championships are taking place before the Olympics in July. McKeown is the world record holder and reigning champion in the 100m backstroke, but her absence alongside the likes of Ariarne Titmus and Emma McKeon has allowed youngsters like Anderson to shine on the world stage.

Jaclyn Barclay from Queensland - herself only 17 - showed Australia's immense depth in the event. She finished just 0.10 seconds off the podium in fourth with a strong 59.28 - fractionally behind Ingrid Wilm of Canada.

Simona Quadarella and Hwang Sun-woo win gold medals

Meanwhile, Simona Quadarella of Italy romped to another gold medal in the women's 1500m freestyle, taking advantage of the absence of Katie Ledecky. American superstar Ledecky has won five of the last six world titles in the 1500, but decided to skip the world championships to focus on the Paris Olympics later this year.

The world championships in Doha are taking place in the same year as the Olympics for the first time in history. The Covid-19 pandemic pushed back a number of big events (including the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021), meaning swimming is still playing catch up and trying to cram the world championships in before the Paris Games.

Quadarella began to pull away from the field around the 500m mark, and finished nearly half a lap ahead in 15 minutes 46.99 seconds. Li Bingjie of China took the silver in 15:56.62, just ahead of bronze medallist Isabel Gose of Germany. Australia's Maddy Gough finished in seventh place in 16:16.85.

Iona Anderson, pictured here at the swimming world championships.
Iona Anderson (L) won silver in the 100m backstroke at the swimming world championships. (Getty Images)

Hwang Sun-woo gave South Korea their second gold medal of the event in the men's 200 freestyle, with Elijah Winnington of Australia seventh in 1:46.20. American Luke Hobson led with 50 metres to go, but Hwang powered back to the front on the final lap, holding off Danas Rapsys of Lithuania to win in 1:44.75, with Hobson getting bronze.

"I don't have a long-course gold medal," the 20-year-old Hwang said. "But I did it today, so I'm very happy."

And Hunter Armstrong bounced back from a bizarre mix-up in the semi-finals to win the men's 100m backstroke. The American, who swam in the wrong lane in the semi, held off Hugo Gonzalez of Spain and Apostolos Christou of Greece.

Tang Qianting won the women's 100 breaststroke in 1:05.92 to give China a second gold of the meet. The silver went to Tes Schouten of the Netherlands and Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey grabbed a surprise bronze medal.

with AAP

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