Australia’s most successful Olympian in history, Emma McKeon, produced a phenomenal anchor leg to lead the nation’s 4x100m women’s freestyle team to a gold medal and world record on Tuesday night.
The Australians were 0.98 seconds behind the lead and placed third in the FINA World Swimming Championships event when McKeon entered the pool, before the 28-year-old charged home in 49.96 seconds to secure an incredible comeback win.
The team clocked 3:25.43 as the USA (3:26.29) and Canada (3:28.06) rounded out the podium in Melbourne.
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Eighteen-year-old Mollie O’Callaghan (52.19 seconds) opened the relay, Madi Wilson (51.28) completed the second leg, Meg Harris (52.00) tackled the third leg and McKeon (49.96) — who’s won 11 Olympic medals, including five gold — rocketed home.
Despite Australia’s long-running stardom in the pool, the team had never won the event at the short-course meet.
“It’s extra special doing it in front of a home crowd,” McKeon said in a pool-side interview on Nine’s coverage.
“I think it’s great for the sport, and obviously it’s great for us to compete in front of a home crowd, but it’s also great for young ones up in the stands because I think each of us remember being young up in the stands and watching our sporting idols do this.
The FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) will be broadcast exclusively live and free on Nine and 9Now from December 13-18.
“So, it’s awesome to come out tonight and break a world record, as well.”
Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe had towering praise for McKeon on Nine’s broadcast.
“Emma, being able to come home the way that she did … we knew that the American (Erika Brown) has these brilliant turns, and she was actually matching Emma on the turns, but it was the swimming component in that which Emma just blasts everyone away,” Thorpe said.
“She skips across the water like a stone that you throw across the lake … and she was able to just dominate, especially in that last 50 metres.”
Nine commentator Mat Thompson described McKeon’s swim as a “blistering final leg”.
“What a swim by Australia’s golden girl,” Thompson added.
Australia’s Lani Pallister also pulled off a heroic performance on Tuesday night, overcoming heart surgery and an eating disorder to win gold in the women’s 400m freestyle.
The 20-year-old posted 3:55.04 in a triumph over New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather (3:56.00) and the USA’s Leah Smith. (3:59.78).
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