New Zealand swimming Erika Fairweather has won her maiden swimming world championship title with victory in the women’s 400m freestyle final in Doha.
The 20-year-old is the first New Zealander to win a long course swimming world championship title.
In a field without world record holder Ariarne Titmus and past holders Katie Ledecky and Summer McIntosh, Fairweather was the favourite and lived up to it, leading from the start in a personal best of 3:59.44. The bronze medalist from last year finished more than two seconds ahead of China’s Li Bingjie in second. Germany’s Isabel Gose was third, 2.95 seconds back.
Fellow Kiwi Eve Thomas finished seventh.
The victory puts Fairweather in top form ahead of the Paris Olympics where rivals Titmus, Ledecky and McIntosh will all be competing after skipping the worlds.
Due to schedule difficulties in the wake of Covid, it is the first time in history a long course (50-metre pool) world championships have been held in the same year as an Olympics which has seen many of the world’s top swimmers skip the event which has been dubbed the ‘ B-grade world championships’.
New Zealand’s previous best at a world championships was silver, claimed twice by Lauren Boyle in 2015 (800m Freestyle and 1500m freestyle), Danyon Loader at the Rome event in 1994 (200m butterfly) and Gary Hurring (200m backstroke) in Berlin 1978.
Boyle in the 800 metres freestyle during 2012, Moss Burmester in the 200 metres butterfly in 2008 and the 1995 4 x 100 metre medley relay team of Jonathan Winter, Paul Kent, Guy Callaghan and Trent Bray have triumphed at short course world championships.