Cate’s fastest time ever anchors Aussies to Pan Pac gold
Cate Campbell has anchored Australia to their first gold medal of the 2018 Pan Pacs in Tokyo tonight – swimming faster than any woman has ever swum.
The Dolphins 4x100m mixed medley relay – one of three new events added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics swimming program – saw a major boilover – thanks to the team of Mitch Larkin (backstroke), Jake Packard (breaststroke), Emma McKeon (butterfly) and a sizzling Campbell (freestyle).
Campbell split 50.93 – 0.07 quicker than she split in the world record breaking 4x00m freestyle relay at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.
And she sure was happy when told the time – giving a little bunny hop on the pooldeck when the Aussies came together to talk to the media about their first gold of the night, fighting out the finish with Japan (silver) and the USA (bronze).
Australia stopped the clock at three minutes, 38.91 seconds - just 0.35 outside the world record, set by the USA in Budapest at last year’s World Championships.
Japan took the silver in 3:40.98 and the USA - boasting world champions Caeleb Dressel (butterfly) and Simone Manuel (freestyle) plus world record holding backstroker Kathleen Baker and breaststroker Michael Andrew took home the bronze in 3:41.74 – after deciding to swim Baker against Larkin and Dressell against McKeon.
Australia finished the opening night with five medals – one gold, three silver and one bronze – and a host of personal best times – in an encouraging start to the 32-strong Dolphins team.
The silvers went to Ariarne Titmus who smashed the Australian record to clock 8 minutes 17.07 for her silver to US swimming superstar Katie Ledecky; Packard who clocked a personal best of 59.20 and Jess Hansen in a second personal best of the day 1:06.20 – both in the 100m breaststroke finals.
Hansen finished less than a second behind Olympic and world champion Lilly King of the United States in the women's final, while Packard was a shock men's runner-up to Japan's Yasuhiro Koseki.
Bronze went to Jack McLoughlin in 14:55.92 in the men’s 1500m freestyle, who admitted he thought he would swim faster after putting together his best ever block of training. He will have the 800m on the final night.
The Dolphins will be inspired for the rest of the meet thanks to the relay team's steely win sealed by Campbell's history making finish.
It was also a confidence boost for Campbell, who in the final leg blew away Manuel - the woman who dethroned the Australian by claiming Rio Olympic 100m gold.
"Our coaches have been scheming over the past couple of days trying to put together the strategically fastest team - obviously they got it right," Campbell said.
"I knew it was going to be tight (finish) whether it was going to be Japan or the US on our tail.
"For me it was about keeping a cool head and swimming my race and I did that.
"Plus no one likes to be caught - I am glad I did the catching."
Former dual world backstroke champion Larkin believed their first win of the meet would lift Australia.
"It's fantastic to start off the meet really well and hopefully that momentum carries across as it has in previous years," he said.
All Australian eyes were on Titmus, 17, who clocked eight minutes, 17.07 seconds to eclipse Jess Ashwood's 2016 national record of 8:18.14 by more than a second to hold off fast finishing American Leah Smith for the silver.
However, there was no stopping Olympic and world champion Ledecky, who set a championship record of 8:09.13 to claim the meet's first gold - almost eight seconds faster than the Australian.
Titmus rated her record-breaking 800m freestyle silver at the Pan Pacs as a "breakthrough" ahead of Tokyo 2020.
Her new National record sparked Australia's day one haul and her time eclipsed dual Olympian Jess Ashwood's 2016 National mark of 8:18.14 by more than a second and she held off fast finishing American Leah Smith for a sterling silver.
Ledecky set a championship record of 8:09.13 to claim the meet's first gold.
Titmus, the girl who left Launceston to chase her swimming dreams three years ago said she had taken a major step toward reeling in the American at Tokyo 2020 with her latest entry in the national record books.
"I started to feel it in the back end (of the race) but I'm finally happy to get that breakthrough," Titmus said."
"I started to see Leah come, which pushed me along a little bit.
"But I feel like I took the race out the way I wanted to.
"I'm glad I can finally do a good PB."
Titmus was encouraged by what she produced in the 800m final and looked forward to Saturday's 400m where she will again tangle with world record holder Ledecky.
"(Coach) Dean (Boxall) told me if you are next to here after 200m, don't get worried you've gone out too fast because she might be playing games," Titmus said.
"I just had to stick to my own plan and I feel like I did that tonight.
"I had great speed in the first half of the race so that will help me in the first 200m of the 400m and hopefully I can (tough) out the rest of the race.
In the men's 200m freestyle, Alex Graham (1:46.50) finished fifth and Clyde Lewis (1:46.94) seventh behind American winner Townley Haas after setting pbs in the morning heats while USC Spartan Mikkayla Sheridan joined in the personal best club with her 1:57.48 to finish an encouraging fifth in the women’s 200m freestyle final.