Lani Pallister Lines Up Double Shot At Tokyo 2020 Family First For Self & Coach/Mum Janelle Elford

Janelle Elford, 1988 Olympic swimmer for Australia, and daughter Lani Pallister, World Junior Champion, share a joke with the legend Dawn Fraser - Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr, Swimming Australia

World Junior Championships (Lani Pallister)

Budapest, Day 4

Lani Pallister took another big stroke closer to delivering swimming history next year at Australian trials for Tokyo when she added the 400m freestyle crown to her 800m gold with a second dominant victory at World Junior Championships in Budapest.

The 4:05.42 on the clock was more significant than the championship record it established after Pallister trailed the 2015 pace of fellow Australian Tamsin Cook before a 1:01.69 homecoming 100m swept her inside the global standard.

Among Pallister’s goals is to emulate her mum, Janelle Elford, who raced for Australia in the 400m and 800m freestyle finals at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, and join the thread of soaring history. That includes greats such as legendary triple Olympic crown sprinter Dawn Fraser (Melbourne 1956 to Tokyo 1964 – in the main photo) and l all-strokes, all distances legend  Shane Gould (held world records 100m to 1500m simultaneously and remains the only woman ever to win 5 solo medals at one Games in the pool, three gold, all in world records, a silver and a bronze, Munich, 1972). Both are official national treasures Down Under.

If Pallister, now No8 over 800m and No11 over 400m in the world this year, makes the Olympic team next year in either the 400 or the 800m, she will make self and mum the first mother-daughter combo to swim the same event in the pool at the Olympic Games, generations apart.

Over 400m, Elford would have claimed bronze had it not been for the two GDR swimmers ahead of her on a diet of Oral Turinabol. The evidence of all of that is long in; the will to do anything about it lagging the passionate and drive and dedication of the swimmer, her coach and family by an ocean.


Janelle Elford, 1988 Olympic swimmer for Australia, and daughter Lani Pallister, World Junior Champion – Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr, Swimming Australia

Elford’s best times of 4:10 and 8:24 have both now been surpassed by her daughter, Pallister’s effort today inside her previous best of 4:06.57. At that pace, she was 12th swiftest Australian ever. Now she is No 8 – and as it is in the 800m, is ranked No 3 in her country over the 400m among those still in the hunt.

At the helm of Dolphin pace is Ariarne Titmus, who seized the day in Gwangju last month to become World champion over 400m in 3:58.76 as American Katie Ledecky struggled with the pace and her form on the cusp of declaring illness that would put her out of action in the 200m and 1500m events before she put in one of the most impressive swims of her career for gold over 800m.

CAN Pallister & Croinin 2

Pallister (right) with Canada’s Emma O’Croinin after the 400 free. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol

While Titmus, on best times of 3:58.76 and 8:15.70 has a clear edge on the rest back home, the battle for the second berth has heated up significantly on Pallister’s progress (4:05.46 and 8:22.49) and that of Kiah Melverton, who has the edge on the clock with best times of 4:05.30 and 8:22.24 set this year.

Today in Budapest, there was no getting close to the 3:58.37 in which Ledecky set the world records senior and junior back in 2014, the year FINA started to recognise global youth standards. The championship record reflects the fact that the greatest distance freestyle swimmer ever known never raced at the junior event, her international arrival at 15 resulting in Olympic gold over 800m freestyle at London 2012.

Nearest to Pallister were Canada’s Emma Crionin, on 4:08.11, a last 100m of 1:01.54 sweeping her past American Rachel Stege, who took bronze in 4:08.30, New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather locked out in 4:08.78. Fairweather’s last 100m split, of 1:01.43 was the swiftest in the final.

Pallister’s pace made her closest battle that against the clock stopped by Cook in 2015:

  • 59.10; 2:01.31; 3:03.73; 4:05.42 Pallister, 2019
  • 59.00; 2:01.36; 3:03.67; 4:06.17 Cook, 2015
1 PALLISTER Lani Australia AUS 4:05.42 CR
2 O’CROININ Emma Canada CAN 4:08.11
3 STEGE Rachel United States of America USA 4:08.30
4 FAIRWEATHER Erika New Zealand NZL 4:08.78
5 JUSTE SANCHEZ Paula Spain ESP 4:10.72
6 BOCEKLER Beril Turkey TUR 4:11.24
7 TUGGLE Claire United States of America USA 4:12.39
8 NAMBA Miyu Japan JPN 4:15.77

Keeping It In The Family

Pallister, a 17-year-old from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, has shown great promise for several years and has always been coached by the woman who taught her to swim and brought her into the world – her mother.

Over 800m on Wednesday, Lani clocked a championship record and a personal best time of 8:22.49 (28.81, 1:00.12, 2:03.44, 3:06.61, 4:09.79, 5:13.07, 6:16.48, 7:20.40). Out in 4:09.79, home in 4:12.70.

That would have placed Pallister seventh at the World Championships in Gwangju last month, the crown retained by Katie Ledecky, the American overcoming illness to fend off the challenge from Simona Quadarella, of Italy. Pallister’s 400m today would also have placed her seventh in Gwangju.

Pallister emerged from battle in Budapest with family bragging rights – leapfrogging her mother and coach Janelle Elford on the all-time rankings. Here’s the tale of a family tradition:

Elford’s pride in her daughter is obvious. A berth on the Australia team next year would make for a fine then and now line 1988 to 2020.

There is only one other known mother-daughter combo in Dolphins history: Lyn McClements and Jacqui McKenzie both represented their country at the Olympic Games — Lyn in Mexico in 1968, Jacqui 24 years later at Barcelona. Janelle and Lani are the first mum/daughter to race the same event, however, so a berth on the Tokyo 2020 team for Pallistrer would write a new line in Aussie swimming lore and legend. Lyn McClements was a butterflyer, indeed the first Australian woman to win Olympic gold on that stroke (100m), while Jacqui was a medley swimmer.


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