World Championships, Day 7 Finals: Pan Zhanle, China Go Wire-to-Wire in Mixed 400 Free Relay; Fourth Relay Gold This Week

Pan Zhanle of China -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Perottino / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

World Championships, Day 7 Finals: Pan Zhanle, China Go Wire-to-Wire in Mixed 400 Free Relay; Fourth Relay Gold This Week

China has been nearly unstoppable in relays this week at the World Championships. First came gold in the men’s 400 freestyle relay on night one, with Pan Zhanle leading off with a world record in the individual 100 free. Next up, China swept the 800 free relays, with Li Bingjie sizzling in the women’s triumph while the same men’s quartet returned from the 400 free relay, with Pan splitting 1:43.90 to make up a huge deficit and give his team a chance on the anchor leg.

In the mixed 400 free relay, there was never any serious competition for the top spot, with Pan leading off in 47.29 to give China a half-second lead and Wang Haoyu extending that margin with a 47.41 split. At that point, the lead was more than a second, but China was going with a pair of female swimmers who lacked international experience in the 100 free, especially compared to the Americans and Australian within striking distance.

But Li and Yu Yiting delivered. Li, the winner of silver in the 400 and 1500 free already at this meet in addition to her 800 free relay gold, went 53.11 on the third leg. Australia closed the gap as 100 free bronze medalist Shayna Jack clocked 52.38, but China was still almost a half-second up. Meanwhile, the U.S. fell back as Claire Curzan, fresh off a world title in the 200 back, posted a 53.82 split.

On the anchor leg, Yu dove in just ahead of Australia’s Brianna Throssell, with American Kate Douglass hot in pursuit. Yi, the bronze medalist at the 200 IM at this meet as well as last July’s World Championships, held tough with a 53.37 split, slightly ahead of Throssell’s 53.49, while Douglass was too far behind for her 52.85 to make much difference.

China finished in 3:21.18 for gold while Australia’s Kai TaylorJack Cartwright, Jack and Throssell took silver in 3:21.78. The Americans, with Hunter Armstrong and Matt King providing the opening splits before Curzan and Douglass took over, took bronze in 3:22.28.

Notably for the United States, Armstrong broke 48 from a flat-start for the first time in his career. Best known for his backstroke abilities, including a 100 back world title this year and a 50 back gold in 2023, Armstrong was a member of the U.S. men’s 400 free relay as a prelims swimmer at this meet as well as at the 2022 World Championships, but he was dropped from the finals squads on both occasions. His 47.83 leadoff split is unofficial since it occurred on a mixed relay, but it will vault him into serious contention for a 400 free relay spot at the upcoming Olympics.

Canada finished fourth in 3:23.79, with Javier Acevedo splitting 47.58 on the second leg for the third-quickest split among men behind the two Chinese swimmers. Italy, even with Alessandro Miressi on the leadoff leg, could never get into contention and ended up fifth (3:24.40). The Netherlands, with Marrit Steenbergen anchoring in 52.74, took sixth (3:25.14).

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