Kyle Chalmers outswam Romanian sensation David Popovici to win the 100m freestyle title at the World Short Course Championships on Thursday, with Emma McKeon making it a golden night for Australia by claiming the women’s crown.
The much-anticipated men’s race pitted the world record holders in short course, Chalmers, and long course, Popovici, with the Australian proving too strong for his 18-year-old rival.
He touched in 45.16 seconds ahead of France’s Maxime Grousset and Italian defending champion Alessandro Miressi, with Popovici fourth.
“It’s very, very special to do it in front of friends and family,” Chalmers said poolside in Melbourne.
“I swim with my eyes closed and I knew exactly how to execute the race.
“I think it’s always important in those big moments to swim how you want to swim and how you train to swim and not get distracted by the other guys.”
Popovici has had a phenomenal year that saw him smash the long course world record that had stood since 2009 then become the first man to complete the 100m/200m freestyle double at the Budapest world championships in nearly 50 years.
But it was his first short course event and he admitted before the race it was a learning experience.
McKeon, the most decorated athlete of any sport at the Tokyo Olympics with seven medals, including the 100m freestyle gold, hit the wall first in a championship record 50.77.
She narrowly held off defending champion Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong, with the Netherlands’ Marrit Steenbergen taking bronze.
“It was a very tight finish,” admitted McKeon, who anchored the Australian women to a world record in the 4x100m freestyle relay on Tuesday. “To get your hand to the wall first is all that you want really.”
Hurt a lot
British great Adam Peaty, who had a difficult long-course season when he fractured his foot, could only manage third in the 100m breaststroke final behind winner Nic Fink of the United States (55.88).
“Winning this gives me a lot of confidence and I am ready to rock and roll,” said Fink.
South African veteran Chad le Clos won the men’s 200m butterfly gold for a fourth time to go with titles from 2010, 2014, and 2016. The 30-year-old outpaced Japanese master Daya Seto to touch in 1:48.27, with Switzerland’s Noe Ponti third.
With Olympic champion and title holder Zhang Yufei bypassing this meet, the door was open in the women’s 200 fly and Dakota Luther grabbed the chance to win in 2:03.37.
She finished ahead of fellow American Hali Flickinger, who is still chasing an elusive major title in the event after finishing runner-up at the 2019 and 2022 world championships and third at the Tokyo Olympics. Australian Lizzie Dekkers won bronze.
Another American, Lily King, stormed to victory in the women’s 100m breaststroke final in a speedy 1:02.67. Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte came second, but was disqualified, with Dutchwoman Tes Schouten elevated to silver and Germany’s Anna Elendt bronze.
“I’m glad it looked good because it hurt a lot,” said King.
American Kieran Smith claimed the men’s 400m title in 3:34.38, while Australia won the men’s 4x50m freestyle relay gold and the United States the women’s.
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