Swimming world rages at 'sick joke' after Aussies robbed of world championships gong

Australia finished on top of the medal table at the swimming world championships - but only if you weren't watching in America.

Mollie O'Callaghan, Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown at the swimming world championships.
Australia beat the USA at an international swimming event for the first time in over 20 years. Image: Getty

Australia's all-conquering swimming team have been controversially denied the award for best team at the world championships despite finishing way out on top of the medal table. The Aussies equalled their best-ever haul of 13 golds in Fukuoka, as well as winning a team record number of medals overall.

However they only finished on top of the medal table if you weren't watching in America. NBC, the USA's host broadcaster of the event, pulled a shameless switch in the middle of the meet so the Americans would be top of the table.

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Medal tables at the Olympics and world championships are traditionally ordered by the number of gold medals won. But with the USA falling way behind Australia's total in Fukuoka, NBC re-ordered their medal table based on the overall medals won. Australia finished with 13 gold medals and 25 overall, with the USA finishing second with seven gold and 38 overall.

It marked the first time in over 20 years that Australia finished with more gold than the USA at an international swimming meet. But NBC weren't happy with that and put the USA on top of their tally because of their higher total overall.

Asked on Sunday how he judged the medal table, Australia's head coach Rohan Taylor said: "The gold medals. That is how I look at it.

"For us, (Australia's former long-time head coach) Don Talbot always said the only thing that mattered was gold. I was brought through the system that way.

"When you look at the World Aquatics medal table, it has the gold medals (first). At an Olympics ... it's golds. At the end of the day, it's just a reflection of how well this team has performed. Let people decide what they want to decide. Internally, we're really proud."

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Unfortunately for Australia, World Aquatics officials presented the United States with the award for the best team of the world championships due their superior number of medals. The award is always decided based on the total number of medals, rather than golds.

The Aussies missed out on the gong despite boasting the most gold medals, the swimmer with the most individual golds (Mollie O'Callaghan), and the female swimmer of the world championships (Kaylee McKeown). "The way the award is presented is on total medals, that's the award," Taylor said.

USA team members, pictured here with the trophy for best team of the swimming world championships.
USA team members pose with the trophy for best team of the swimming world championships. (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

"We (Australia) have always looked at it that gold medals were the most important. So from our perspective, we were the best performed team on the gold medal count.

"And when you look at the website and you look at the medal tally, we sit on top of that. That is how I feel. But I'm not taking anything away from the US and they won the award based on the criteria that was there."

However the decision went down like a lead balloon in the swimming world, with many of the belief that Australia deserved the award.

Australia's historic performance at swimming world championships

Teenage sensation O'Callaghan departed Fukuoka with five gold medals - the most of any swimmer at the meet - as well as a silver. Ian Thorpe (six golds in Fukuoka in 2001) is the only Aussie swimmer with more golds at a world championships.

O'Callaghan also featured in three of Australia's four world records in Fukuoka. "It's what you'd hope would happen with another exposure to this level of meet," Taylor said.

"The ability to lean back on the work done, the support team who have really put a lot in to that preparation as well, not just addressing the physical but how they psychologically bring it. And it was put to the test here and she was really was able to do that."

Emma McKeon, Abbey Harkin, Mollie O'Callaghan and Kaylee McKeown.
Emma McKeon, Abbey Harkin, Mollie O'Callaghan and Kaylee McKeown at the swimming world championships. (Photo by YUICHI YAMAZAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Backstroke queen McKeown was crowned female swimmer of the year after taking out the 50m, 100m and 200m titles - the first female swimmer ever to sweep the backstroke events at a world championships. "I have teammates like Ariarne Titmus and Mollie O'Callaghan who have broken world records this week," McKeown said.

"As proud as I am, I feel like I have should share that (award) with my teammates. I never thought in a million years I would be named swimmer of the year. But it's pretty cool."

The Dolphins' total of 25 medals bettered their previous best result at a world championships of 22 - set at both the 2003 and 2005 editions. Australia's total of 13 gold medals also equalled the nation's best-ever result from 2001 and 2005.

with AAP

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