Fairweather & Kim Take Doha 400m Free Crowns & Pan Cracks World 100 Free Record in 46.80 Leading China To 4×100 Gold

2024-02-11 No comments Reading Time: 6 minutes
Stars of Day 1 in Doha (l-r): Erika Fairweather, Kim Woowin and Pan Zhanle
Stars of Day 1 in Doha (l-r): Erika Fairweather, Kim Woowin and Pan Zhanle - photos courtesy of World Aquatics

Erika Fairweather, of New Zealand, and Kim Woomin, of Korea, claimed the first two global titles, both in the 400m freestyle, at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha on day one of action.

The 4x100m freestyle finals were topped by the men of China and the women of The Netherlands in times that will not make the medals come Paris 2024, the circumstances of the Doha championships being what they are.

However, Pan Zhanle is now a golden shot for the Olympic 100m free crown: he led the China men’s quartet off with a sizzling 46.80 World Record 0.06sec inside the standard established by Romanian teen David Popovici in 2022.

The splits compared show where the Romanian can topple Pan if he is to do so, the Chinese sprinter belonging in the camp of those who scorch the first 50 and hold on, generally speaking, not those who get to the turn within reach of the scorchers and then chase their quarry down:

22.26, 46.80 Pan 2024
22.74, 46.86 Popovici 2022

Further insight:

46.86! Shiny Suit Slayer David Popovici Youngest Euro World-Record Holder In History Of 100m Free A Century After Tarzan

In The Balance Of 46.86 – Popovici Plot To Take Back Control Of The 100m From ‘Pure Sprint’ Club

Peaty: ‘Starting to look very promising’

The first evening session of the championships also witnessed a 58.60 from Adam Peaty for a ticket to lane 4 of the final of the 100m breaststroke tomorrow. The time is his fastest since he claimed a second Olympic title in the event at Tokyo2020ne and the day marked the first appearance of the 2015, 2017 and 2019 global champion and World record holder at a World Championships since 2019. For quotes from Peaty, see potted reports below). More on his journey:

Adam Peaty, Crisis To Quest – Part 1 – Winter 2022 To Spring 2023: My Self-Destructive Spiral

Adam Peaty, From Crisis To Quest – Part 2 – Into The Light Of Self-Discovery, No Need To Prove His Worth

The final will go with all big guns barring one, the reigning World champion Qin Haiyang, of China, who made huge leaps last year to enter the sub-58sec club as second swiftest ever, though still far back from Peaty’s 56.88 World record from 2019.

The British ace emerged from his semi to say, through British Swimming:

Adam Peaty, into the Doha final in lane 4 - courtesy of British Swimming
Adam Peaty, into the Doha final in lane 4 – courtesy of British Swimming

“I feel good. My objective for this meet was to progress through the rounds, progress physically and in results, but also progress mentally and see what strategies are working, what isn’t working. It’s more of a test event for us, but obviously we’re going to put our best foot forward and put a good fight on.

After the heats, I was like, ‘okay, I know what I’m working with and I know what I’m capable of’. But tonight was just about going out there, showing a little bit of Adam Peaty which is a front end, getting a little bit angry with myself like I normally do. Tonight I showed that I can still get it down that back end when I really need to. I’ve switched it up a notch. I knew tonight that I needed a little bit of emotion, a little bit of ‘oomph’. We got the job done, Mel is going to be pretty happy with that, it’s the fastest we’ve been in two years, maybe a bit more, so it’s starting to look very promising.”

Adam Peaty. Image courtesy of British Swimming

All Doha Swimming Results In Full at Omega

Potted race reports and some quotes

NB: The timing and nature of the event neither allows nor justifies comprehensive coverage of the kind SOS would usually dedicate to the global showcase.

Doha, Day 1 Finals

Men’s 400m freestyle Final

Kim Woomin claimed the first crown of the Championships with a 3:42.71 victory ahead of Australian 2022 World champion Elijah Winnington and Lukas Martens, of Germany, all three medallists on 3:42s.

Woomin, who crushed his previous best of 3:43.92, set at the Fukuoka 2023 Worlds just last July, won from the front and by holding on under pressure from the two men closest to him, who produced much faster finishes as the Korean felt the strain of a terrific effort.

Winnington emerged to say through Swimming Australia: “I came here to race, and the focus is on Paris, but I am happy where I am at. I didn’t really have a race plan after he (Woomin) out so hard, I could see him so that’s something I need to think about.”

Women’s 400m freestyle Final

Erika Fairweather, who claimed bronze at Fukuoka 2023 made hay while the swiftest three in the world are away, to claim an historic maiden gold for New Zealand in 3:59.44.

Women’s 4x100m freestyle

The top 2 teams on 3:36, the Dutch quartet ended an Australian streak of world titles in the 4x100m freestyle in a time that has nom chance of making the Paris podium, when Australia will, all being well, will have four super-fast cylinders firing in a final that is probably the most sure-fire gold medal prediction on the whole program.

Men’s 4x100m freestyle

China claimed its first 4x100m freestyle world title in 3:11.08, a time that will not make the medals come Paris 2024 but was easily good enough, courtesy of an opening World-record split of 46.80 from Pan Zhanle that granted the Chinese big lead over the rest.

There’s not much to say beyond Pan Zhanle’s world record and gauntlet to Popovici but worth noting that the top 4 quartets clocked times that will not make the podium in Paris, with the USA, Italy and Great Britain with a lot of room for improvement, for obvious in-season and circumstantial reasons, China fielding its best and Pan clearly rested and racing in peak form, while Australia didn’t even bother.

None of the podium times in Doha today would have won a medal or even finished top 4 in Fukuoka 2023 if you take into account Great Britain 3:10 in heats alongside the three 3:10s own the podium, Australia taking gold a second swifter than China was today.

Great Britain was disqualified for a takeover 0.04sec too fast and therefore hard to show up in Doha to claim a ticket to Paris 2024. Job done.

Job done: the GBR 4x100m free quartet with a ticket to Paris 2024

Jacob Whittle, the teen who left 0.04 too early in Japan, got it right today. He said: “It’s an exciting relay, we got the job done, the team’s in Paris – now it’s over to trials at British Championships to make sure that we’re on the team. It’s an exciting team for the summer, I’m looking forward to it.”

Duncan Scott added: “The job was to be done this morning, but we went pretty quick there, and that’ll put us in quite a good place. We’ve come away from the meet with just what we’ve needed to do, the bonus would’ve been to get on the podium. That kicks off quite a busy meet for me, but I’m looking forward to it. I can’t go anywhere else in the world right now to get this level of racing, so it’s perfect.”

Tom Dean is heading to Australia for a pre-Olympic training camp when Doha is done, his training phase showing in his split. He said: “It is eyes on the big one in terms of that relay now, swimming it at Paris, but before that it’s the British Champs. I was just saying now, that is just as competitive as any international meet now, especially on the freestyle. That’s the first stepping stone, but we got the job done this morning (when the time of 3:13 added them to the list of the top 16 nations on the clock in line for Paris).

Matt Richards was happy with what came out of where he and they are: “That swim tonight, flat start, it’s easier to compare to normal. I think that’s pretty much on par with my fastest-ever in season, so I can’t be anything but pleased with that, it shows I’m in the right place. I’ve definitely never been a 48.1 flat start in February, so I can’t complain with that at all.”

Doha, Day 1 Semi-Finals

Women’s 100m butterfly

Angelina Kohler shattered her own German record of 57.05 twice today, first in 56.41 in heats and then a 56.11 in her semi this evening for a lead of almost a second on the best of the rest going into the final tomorrow.

Men’s 50m butterfly

Men’s 100m breaststroke

Women’s 200m medley

Day 1 is done and an expected pattern is emerging.

By the close of the Paris Olympics in August, we will know where Doha Worlds fits in the grand scheme of things. Before the meet in Qatar got underway, we could say what we can say after day 1: some of those racing to world honours this week, probably including world champions, will not make the Paris podium; some will.

In the mix of why are two key factors: the ranks of the missing are heavy on key contenders; and… some setting big personal bests and national records in February of Olympic year will have to go at least as fast again in July and August to be in with a shout. Some will, some will not.

We can also say this: the anomaly of Doha will help some nations secure their funding or even better funding but it also carries risks for those athletes whose success now translates to headlines suggesting their are a shoe in for Olympic medals or even gold. The trail of swimming history is paved with great expectations that failed to see all the colours, shades, tones and truth on the canvas.

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