World Championships, Day One Finals: Erika Fairweather Makes History As She Dominates 400 Free For Gold

Erika Fairweather: photo courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

World Championships, Day One Finals: Erika Fairweather Makes History As She Dominates 400 Free For Gold

Erika Fairweather became the first New Zealand swimmer to win gold at the World Championships when she dominated the 400 free at the Aspire Dome in Doha.

Fairweather led throughout to touch in 3:59.44 with a winning margin of 2.18secs over Li Bingjie who claimed her seventh World Championship medal in 4:01.62 with Isobel Gose of Germany third in 4:02.39, a national record and enough to book a ticket for Paris 2024.

Maria Fernanda Costa lowered her South American record to 4:02.86 in fourth.

Reigning champion Ariarne Titmus and Katie Ledecky have won the last six world titles with the American victorious on four occasions.

However, the pair have chosen to bypass the 2024 World Championships, meaning an opportunity presented itself to visit the top of the podium, one that Fairweather took with both hands.

After clambering out of the pool, she exclaimed: “how crazy is that?!”

Li Bingjie, Erika Fairweather & Isabel Gose: photo courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Fairweather and Li were separated by 0.05secs in prelims with the Chinese swimmer leading the way in 4:04.65. and it was she who came up ahead.

However, the Kiwi soon took control and led at the first turn, with Maria Fernanda De Oliveira a half bodylength adrift with Li next in the chasing pack.

By halfway,  she led by 1.65 with Li in second, extending the lead to 2.01secs at the 300m mark.

Li was expected to make her move in the latter stages of the race but Fairweather was in complete and total control, to come home inside 4mins and claim her first senior title.

Splits: 57.54/1:58.41/2:59.32/3:59.44

The 20-year-old also lowered her New Zealand record of 3:59.59 set en-route to bronze behind Titmus and Ledecky at the 2023 World Championships.

She is one of only five women to have broken the four-minute barrier, topped by Titmus and her eye-watering world record of 3:55.38 to secure gold in Fukuoka last year.

Summer McIntosh (3:56.08), Ledecky (3:56.46) and Federica Pellegrini – the first woman inside 4mins in 3:59.25 back in 2009 – are the other women to go inside that mark.

Fairweather said:

“I’m so proud of myself. I couldn’t have wanted anything better from tonight! This is what you expect when you come to a World Championships, right!

“I saw a big opportunity to win tonight and I am really excited that I could take a hold of it and win the gold.

“It’s extremely classy to be in the field with all those girls, I’m stoked. I just wanted to go and have fun and that’s what I did!”

Paris 2024 is less than six months away where Fairweather will be reunited with Ledecky, Titmus and Mcintosh.

She said:

“I am so happy with where I am right now and I am really excited for what’s to come.”

Li had set her sights on her first world title and her first journey inside 4mins but she was never in contention.

“My time in the final was worse than I thought. I would like to achieve a time under four minutes.

“I’m looking for a breakthrough before entering the Paris Olympics.

“Actually I was striving to achieve a gold medal in this event.”

She added:

“My wish for the Chinese New Year is to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games. I believe this is also the New Year’s wish of every athlete.

“I have participated in many competitions before, so I’m unlikely to be influenced by other competitors during the race, but this time I should learn from them, which may be helpful in future races.”

Gose finds herself on the way to Paris 2024 after making her first trip to 4:02, saying:

“I saw the chance, just a little bit. Now, I am just so proud of myself, it’s the Olympic ticket and the first time I finished under 4:03.

“So it is great and I am so happy.

“I think we have to build up and see what next month brings on.

“I have my Olympic ticket for the flight to Paris. I think it’s the time – I am really proud about it. It’s the first time I am under 4:03 and I have been trying to put the mark for two years and now it has happened so I am just so stoked.”








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