FLASH! Pan Zhanle Takes Down 100 Free World Record, Leads China to 400 Free Relay World Title

Photo courtesy: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

FLASH! Pan Zhanle Takes Down 100 Free World Record, Leads China to 400 Free Relay World Title

At last year’s Asian Games, China’s Pan Zhanle became only the fifth man in history to crack 47 seconds for the 100 freestyle, the 19-year-old coming in at 46.97 to miss David Popovici’s world record by just 11-hundredths. Now, in his first opportunity at the World Championships, Pan has lowered that world record while propelling his country to its first-ever gold medal in a men’s relay at a World Championships.

After 50 meters, Pan flipped six tenths clear of the field in 22.26, and he returned in 24.54 to clear Popovici’s year-and-a-half-old world record of 46.86. More importantly for the purposes of this race, Pan supplied China with a nine-tenths lead over Italy’s Alessandro Miressi, and with a deep team behind him, China was suddenly in the mix for gold.

Indeed, Ji Xinjie split 48.18 to hold the lead before Zhang Zhanshuo went 48.63, enough to keep Italy a tenth at bay and the Americans up by a half-second. That gave Wang Haoyu an opportunity to pull away and secure gold, his 47.47 split standing as the second-quickest anchor split, while the American and Italian anchors could not crack 48. That gave China gold medal in 3:11.08, exactly one second ahead of Italy (3:12.08), with the United States taking bronze (3:12.29).

The medal was China’s first ever podium finish in the 400 free relay and only the country’s fourth men’s relay medal ever. Previously, teams led by Sun Yang has captured 800 free relay medals at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships while the men’s medley relay claimed silver last year. Now, China is putting itself in position for a serious medal run in this event at the Paris Olympics while Pan will try to join Ning Zetao as Chinese swimmers to win individual world titles in the 100 free when that event comes around later in the week.

Italy’s silver-medal-winning team included Miressi, Lorenzo ZazzeriPaolo Conte Bonin and Manuel Frigo, with Conte Bonin stepping in for Thomas Ceccon from the group that won silver last year. The Americans, on the other hand, had only Matt King back off last year’s squad as Shaine CasasLuke Hobson and Carson Foster handled the other legs, with Hobson’s 47.68 the quickest of the bunch.

Great Britain, meanwhile, used a full-strength squad of Matt RichardsJacob WhittleTom Dean and Duncan Scott, but the British ended up fourth in 3:12.55. Scott surged home with a 47.37 split but none of the other Brits were able to come close to their best times. However, the British team wanted to take no chances here after a prelims disqualification at the 2023 Worlds ended their gold-medal chances and left the team still needing to lock down its place at the Paris Olympics, which was accomplished here.

Australia, the winner of last year’s world title behind superstar anchor Kyle Chalmers, was absent from this field entirely, but none of the relay teams posted a time that would have been worthy of a medal at last year’s Worlds. Still, we now must consider China a serious 2024 threat in this relay alongside the Aussies, Americans, Italians and British.

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