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Mollie O'Callaghan makes swimming history in staggering first at world championships

Mollie O'Callaghan's sparkling performance at the swimming world championships has continued, with a historic triumph in the 100m freestyle.

Mollie O'Callaghan holds up her 100m freestyle gold medal on the left, and is highlighted touching the wall first on the right.
Mollie O'Callaghan, by winning the 100m freestyle at the world championships in Japan, has become the first woman in the competition's history to win both the 100 and 200 metre evens. Pictures: Getty Images/Channel 9

Mollie O'Callaghan has made herself a firm favourite for the 2024 Paris Olympics by becoming the first woman to win the 100m and 200m freestyle double at the swimming world championships. The 19-year-old, fresh from storming past Ariane Titmus in the 200m earlier in the week, wrote her name in the history books on Friday evening with a barnstorming victory in the 100m.

Only former Aussie star Libby Trickett has won more gold medals at a single world championships, with O'Callaghan's gold in the two freestyle events coming alongside triumphs in the relay events. Her swim in the 100m is made all the more impressive when you look at the split times.

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At the 50m metre mark a gold medal appeared to be a long-shot. She was seventh as they hit the turn, but powered home past Hong Kong’s Siobhan Bernadette Haughey and the Netherlands' Marrit Steenbergen to finish in 52.16 seconds.

Her second split of just 26.41 was absolutely mind-boggling, coming from seemingly nowhere to establish herself as a certain favourite for the Olympics next year. Speaking after the race, she said it was a 'weird' feeling to become the first woman to win the freestyle double at the world championships, which has a history dating back 50 years.

“It’s so weird, I am not going to lie, it’s such a weird feeling,” O’Callghan said “I didn’t even know that no woman has done that and to be the first, it’s just incredible.

"There’s no words to explain it. I am just so thrilled. I am just trying to keep my emotions in tact and keep it controlled at the moment and taking it day by day and I haven’t really thought too much about everything.”

Not only did she make history but she also backed up her success in the same event from the world championships in 2022, held in Budapest. Incredibly, she was the only entrant from that race to go on to make the final again in 2023.

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Reigning Olympic 100m champion, fellow Aussie Emma McKeon, finished fifth. O'Callaghan said, aftger struggling to deal with the pressure of international swimming at times, that she had been pleasantly surprised by how much she was enjoying being in the pool in Fukuoka, Japan.

“I came into this week just wanting to have fun and learn as much as I can so to achieve so much is an incredible feeling,” she said. “I think having fun is the most important point because I went into previous meets just so nervous and worrying so this is the first time I’ve felt so calm and just enjoyed it.”

Mollie O'Callaghan.
Mollie O'Callaghan has cemented herself as a favourite for the 2024 Paris Olympics by winning the 100m and 200m freestyle at the world championships. (Photo by YUICHI YAMAZAKI/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

O'Callaghan's latest triumph came just days after she saved a second off her own personal best in the 200m freestyle, winning gold and breaking the longest-standing world record in the sport in the process. The 19-year-old clocked one minute 52.85 seconds, eclipsing the previous mark of 1:52.98 - a record which had stood for 14 years.

Titmus had to settle for the silver medal as O'Callaghan shocked the swimming world. O'Callagan overtook teammate Titmus (1:53.01) in the last 20 metres, and the pair have now both set world records in Fukuoka following Titmus' 400m freestyle triumph on Sunday night.

It's been an incredibly successful campaign for the Dolphins at large in Fukuoka. Should the team win another four gold medals, they will have enjoyed the most successful world championships in the team's history - a promising sign ahead of next year's Olympic games.

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