Emma McKeon – Australia’s most successful Olympian – has delivered another stunning swim for her country.
The 28-year-old helped Australia to gold in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay in what was a strong first evening for the home nation at the World Swimming Shortcourse Championships in Melbourne.
Australia’s first three relay swimmers – Mollie O’Callaghan, Madi Wilson and Meg Harris – put up strong split times, but were 0.98 seconds and two places off the lead after their legs.
However, when McKeon entered the pool for the final leg, she well and truly put the burners on to push the team to an impressive comeback win, claiming a world record in the process.
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A blistering time of 3:25.43 saw Australia eclipse a fading USA team, with Canada rounding out the podium.
McKeon’s split of 49.96 seconds also marked the first time a female swimmer had recorded a sub-50-second time and was nearly half a second quicker than the previous record held by Cate Campbell (50.38).
“For me, it was just about getting my hand on the wall and then looking to see that we had not only won but also set a world record [was great],” McKeon said, per FINA.
The achievement will be extra sweet for the team, with FINA announcing a US$25,000 (AU$36,917) bonus for any world record notched at the meeting, per SMH.
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Australia’s effort was followed by another world record at the event, with Italy’s Thomas Ceccon swimming a speedy 3:02.75 in the men’s 400m freestyle.
Whilst no more world records were broken for the remainder of the night, there was still plenty for the home crowd to cheer for.
Lani Pallister – who nearly quit swimming entirely after missing out on the Tokyo Olympics – won her maiden world title in the women’s 400m freestyle, beating out New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather and the USA’s Leah Smith.
“My parents are in the stands and winning this first medal in front of a home crowd in Australia is special. I am pleased to get this win out of the way,” Pallister said.
“It was an amazing day and I was very very nervous this morning. I just wanted to be sure that Australia had a fun night tonight. It was the coolest environment.”
Swimming star Kaylee McKeown was also in action, picking up bronze in the women’s 200m individual medley.
Her time of 2:03.57 was an Australian record for the event.
Elsewhere, Australia scored a silver medal in the men’s 4x100m race, finishing 1.88 seconds behind winners Italy.
Similar to the women’s team, Kyle Chalmers delivered a rapid final split (44.98 seconds), but ultimately couldn’t pull his team to the top of the podium.