Lani Pallister’s “Gotcha Mum” Golden Moment In 800m Freestyle at World Junior Championships

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

World Junior Swimming Championships (Lani Pallister, Janelle Elford)


By Ian Hanson

“Gotcha Mum…!!” were the words from rising swim star Lani Pallister after she rocketed up the world rankings and into Olympic contention with gold over 800m freestyle at the World Junior Swimming Championship in Budapest.

Mum is Janelle Elford, the 1988 Olympic 400 and 800m freestyle finalist who clocked 8:24 over 16 laps that year. Thirty one years later, her daughter is World Junior champion in the same event.

The 17-year-old from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast 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).

Going out the first 400m in 4:09.79 and coming home in 4:12.70 to clock the eighth fastest time in the world this year and putting her into Olympic team contention alongside World Championship bronze medallist and current Australian record holder and individual star of the 2019 Dolphins team Ariarne Titmus and World Championship finalist Kiah Melverton.

The winning time 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 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:

Mum, Janelle, couldn’t be prouder with an another major step forward for another one of Australian swimming’s exciting teenagers, in the countdown to next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

If she make the Dolphins squad for Tokyo, Pallister would emulate her mum, who was fifth in the 400m and sixth in the 800m at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Pallister is now 4th all-timer Australian and 32nd all-time globally, at home behind Ariarne Titmus, Jess Ashwood (retired) and Kiah Melverton.


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

Before last night’s final Pallister, who’s father Rick was also an Australian Surf Life Saving champion, ironman and triathlete with Elouera, was 10th on the Australian all-time list. Now she is 4th:

The all-time Aussie 800 women’s ranks:
  • 8:15.70 Titmus, Ariarne, 2001, AUS
  • 8:18.14 Ashwood, Jessica, 1993, AUS
  • 8:22.24 Melverton, Kiah, 1996, AUS
  • 8:22.49 Pallister, Lani, 2002, AUS
  • 8:22.81 Palmer, Kylie, 1990, AUS
  • 8:22.83 Goldman, Katie, 1992, AUS
  • 8:22.93 McDonald, Julie, 1970, AUS
  • 8:24.15 Elford, Janelle, 1970, AUS
  • 8:24.62 Wickham, Tracey, 1962, AUS
  • 8:24.74 Bowles, Alanna, 1998, AUS

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

The detail of that list includes:

  • The legendary former world record holder and world champion Tracey Wickham (8:24.62 – from 1978)
  •  Olympic bronze medallist Julie McDonald (8:22.93 – 1988)
  • Two-time Australian champion and Pan Pac silver medallist Katie Goldman (8:22.81, 2010) and;
  • Beijing 4x200m freestyle relay gold medallist Kylie Palmer  who was 6th in the 800m in Beijing (8:22.81, 2008).
  • World Championship Ariarne Titmus and our No 1 Olympic contender (8:15.70 Gwangju 2019)
  • Recently retired dual Olympian Jess Ashwood 8:18.14 – Santa Clara 2016 and;
  • Australia’s current No 2 and Tokyo World Cup winner and World Championship finalist Kiah Melverton (8:22.24 – Tokyo) 2019

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.

In Budapest and beyond, there’s more to come from Pallister, who got her campaign off to a fine start at world juniors by leading Australia to 4x200m freestyle silver.

Additional reporting and rankings: Craig Lord

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Richard Watts
4 years ago

What a lovely story hope she follows her mum into making an olympic final xx

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