With the Paris 2024 Olympic Games just around the corner, the World Aquatics Championships have given a critical insight into how nations prepare and where they rank in their sports. The main attraction is in swimming and the rivalry that has gripped the sport for ages is between Australia and the United States of America. So, how did the Aussies go?
It’s Ariarne’s World, We Just Live In It
I think it can be safe to say that Ariarne Titmus is one of Australia’s best athletes. Her performances in recent events, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Commonwealth Games, made it clear she would be the proverbial flagbearer – so much so that in 2022, among her gold, she would be given the Order of Australia medal at age 22.
Before heading into the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, Titmus had placed in every freestyle event since the 2019 competition. She has held gold since then in the 400m freestyle whilst defending her placings at the Tokyo Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.
In the 200m freestyle final, she would just be beaten by fellow Australian Mollie O’Callaghan, who was arguably the best swimmer in the whole championship. In the 800m final she would place third, losing to American Olympic rival, Katie Ledecky.
However, in her main race (the 400m freestyle), she would beat out Ledecky once again and set the world record at 3:55:38, continuing her five-year dominance of the race.
With how successful she is and being only 22, she will be the face of Australian swimming for years to come.
World Record Smashing
One of the main news attractions around this championship is the number of world records that were broken, with ten being set in swimming alone and five of them by Australians.
As previously mentioned, Ariarne Titmus broke the 400m freestyle record and part of the 4x200m freestyle relay. Mollie O’Callaghan, Shayna Jack, Meg Harris and Emma McKeon broke the 4x100m freestyle relay with Mollie O’Callaghan and Shayna Jack also being a part of the Mixed 4x100m freestyle relay with Jack Cartwright and Kyle Chalmers.
Finally, if it weren’t enough for her, Mollie O’Callaghan would get her fourth new world record as she set the women’s 200m freestyle.
One notable record broken by a non-Australian was the men’s 400m individual medley, which was set by Frenchman, Léon Marchand, smashing Michael Phelps’ 15-year record by 1.56 seconds.
Who Else Got Gold?
Not including the new world records set by Australians, there were plenty of golden performances by the Aussies. Samuel Short would take the men’s 400m freestyle and Kaylee McKeown would claim three gold medals in the 100m backstroke, 50m backstroke and 200m backstroke, sweeping the entire category of backstroke.
Finally, we had Cameron McEvoy winning in the 50m freestyle, and Kyle Chalmers would win the 100m freestyle.
The USA Claiming They ‘Won’ Overall
An interesting final aspect of this championship has been who has ‘won’ the overall swimming competition – or more so, which nation has claimed they won? This has started a debate about how medal rankings work.
The United States finished the championships with seven gold, 20 silver and 11 bronze, with a total of 38 medals. Australia finished, with 13 Gold, seven Silver and five Bronze with a total of 25 medals.
Usually, when it comes to dictating which nation ranked best, it is based on their number of gold medals achieved, which means that Australia came first. However, the United States has been claiming that they were the best because of their total amount of medals – just one of the more interesting stories of the superiority complex from the United States.
In conclusion, this World Aquatics Championship has shown the true display of the next generation of swimming, and with the next Championships being held in February in Qatar, just five months before the Paris Olympics, who knows if anything gets thrown in between.