World Championships, Night 6: Mollie O’Callaghan Adds 2nd Gold in 100 Free

Mollie O'callaghan of Australia reacts after winning the gold medal in the 200m Freestyle Women Final with a New World Record during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 26th, 2023.
Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships, Night 6: Mollie O’Callaghan Adds 2nd Gold in 100 Free

Few things are as confounding as a Mollie O’Callaghan 100 freestyle. The Aussie lets the sprinters take out the race, no matter who the sprinters seem to be. And then, while their legs sting, she flies past them, in uncanny fashion.

O’Callaghan added a second individual gold medal in the women’s 100 freestyle Friday night, clocking in at 52.16 seconds. Siobhan Haughey, the early pace-setter, finished second in 52.49, and Marrit Steenbergen surged for bronze in 52.71.

O’Callaghan takes a bid of pride in the fact that she swims the 100 free differently. But she also doesn’t rest on her back-half laurels.

“I feel like anyone would take pride in how they race,” O’Callaghan said. “I race in a completely different way, and unusual way. The typical 100, you go out fast and you come back trying to hang on. But I just do what I can do and I don’t think too much about it and I just race my race.”

O’Callaghan is not only the lone medalist back from last year, with Sarah Sjostrom opting for other events and Torri Huske not qualifying. She’s the only holdover from last year’s final. Two of those from last year, Marie Wattel and Yujie Cheng, are the alternates after semifinals. McKeon and Haughey, who went 1-2 in Tokyo, are the only holdovers from the final eight at that meet.

The Aussie women have dominated freestyle in Fukuoka, with O’Callaghan and Ariarne Titmus going 1-2 in the 200 and Titmus winning the 400. She has the 800 coming up later in the night, while the 50 free is still out there. Add in world records in the 400 and 800 free relays, and the Aussies are the world’s foremost freestyle nation at the moment, beyond all doubt.

Haughey was first to the turn in 24.87, nearly a half-second quicker than the 25.10 she used for silver in Tokyo. O’Callaghan was seventh at the wall, out in 25.75. But her second 50 might be the scariest commodity in swimming, a 26.41 that zoomed past her opposition. No one else was quicker than Steenbergen’s 27.11.

Haughey closed in 27.62 to hold onto a medal. Kate Douglass, who has the 200 breast final looming 56 minutes later, went 52.81 to miss a medal by a tenth. Emma McKeon was fifth in 52.83, followed by Abbey Weitzeil in sixth.

It was an emotional medal for Haughey, who called it “a full-circle moment” after a bunch of near misses in this event in particular.

“It means so much to me,” she said. “I was always so close and I was either fifth or fourth, or last time in the 100 free, I didn’t make it to finals. This time, I can finally go home with something.”

Steenbergen adds her name to the list of outstanding Dutch female freestylers. She received her medal from one of them in Ranomi Kromowidjojo.

“I think we can challenge each other,” Steenbergen said. “We had Ranomi, we had Femke (Heemskerk), so there was always someone standing there, and we can challenge each other and we train with each other. It’s a really good environment to train in.”



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