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Australian women break 4x100m freestyle relay world record

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Australia lowered the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay world record for the third time in four years, taking gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast on Thursday.

Shayna JackBronte CampbellEmma McKeon and Cate Campbell clocked 3:30.05, bettering their 3:30.65 record from the Rio Olympics.

Cate Campbell, the former individual 100m free world-record holder, anchored in 51.00 seconds, believed to be the fastest split in history. The previous fastest was believed to be Campbell’s 51.59 from the medley relay at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Campbell had the individual 100m free world record of 52.06 before Swede Sarah Sjöström clocked 51.71 at the 2017 World Championships.

Though Campbell’s split is ineligible for world-record purposes because it was off a relay exchange, it’s still the first 100m free by a woman faster than Mark Spitz‘s fastest-ever individual 100m free (then-world record 51.22 at Munich Olympics; though Spitz was 50.90 on his relay split in Munich).

The Aussie women have a history of great freestyle sprinters but struggled at recent major competitions since winning the 2016 Olympic 4x100m free relay over the U.S. (and ultimately keeping Katie Ledecky from five golds in Rio).

Cate Campbell was fifth and sixth in the 50m and 100m frees in Rio after clocking the fastest 50m free in a textile suit at the Australian Olympic Trials and breaking the 100m free world record one month before the Games. Campbell later said that she swam in Rio with a hernia.

She then skipped the 2017 World Championships because she needed a break to continue on to a possible fourth Olympics in 2020, according to the Australian.

“I’m just making sure I get my body right and my mind right because I do want to continue through to 2018, and at the moment, 2020,’’ she said 13 months ago, according to the newspaper. “I’ve battled injuries pretty much my whole career, and my injuries aren’t just an issue in the swimming pool. I wake up a couple of times every night because I’m sore from my neck and it carries over into day to day life.”

At the 2017 Worlds, sister Bronte and McKeon were seventh and eighth in the 100m free. The last time Australia failed to put a woman in the top six at an Olympics or worlds was 2001.

Also at 2017 Worlds, the Australian women lost the 4x100m free relay by .29 to a U.S. quartet that broke its national record. The U.S., with Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel, clocked 3:31.72 that day. On Thursday in Gold Coast, Australia went 1.67 seconds faster, benefitting from Campbell’s return.

There are no Olympics or worlds this summer, but the U.S. and Australia should both compete at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo in August.

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MORE: ‘I’m getting closer to Ledecky,’ new teen swim star says

Olympic medalist rides bike 18 months after crash, paralysis (video)

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Sam Willoughby rode a BMX bike in a video published Thursday, another sign of progress from a September 2016 training crash that temporarily left him with no feeling below his chest.

Willoughby, a 2012 Olympic BMX silver medalist for Australia, realized a goal on New Year’s Eve. With the aid of a walker, he walked his fiancée, 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist Alise Post, down the aisle at their wedding. They also danced together to Ed Sheeran‘s “Perfect.”

“It’s fantastic. Life is good,” Willoughby, who turns 27 on Aug. 15, said on a podcast published in February. “It’s a little bit different, obviously, than what I had planned at 27.”

Willoughby gave Post a note on their wedding day saying that she saved his life.

“It gave me so much to fight for when tragedy struck,” Willoughby said of their plan to get married (Willoughby proposed in December 2015). “It gave me a purpose. I wanted to be alive with her.”

On Sept. 10, 2016, Willoughby was warming up on a rhythm section of little jumps on a BMX track he had ridden daily for six years at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. He lost control, backflipped and landed on the top of his head, breaking his neck.

“When I was in the hospital, they used terms like quadriplegic,” Willoughby said. “They didn’t really give me a lot of hope.”

When Post arrived at the hospital, Willoughby told her that he would understand if she didn’t go through with the marriage.

“I didn’t want to be a burden on her life,” he said. “She said I’m not going anywhere.”

The next month, Willoughby said he had regained full movement in his arms, weak movement in his hands and spasms and sensations in his toes and legs when they were touched.

Willoughby was released to go home on Dec. 31, 2016, and since progressed through therapy six days per week. By July, he could pedal a stationary bike for 30 minutes and crawl with weights around his ankles, according to the (Adelaide) Advertiser. By the end of 2017, he could do squats and drive a car, according to the Australian Associated Press.

It took him months of practice to walk with aid at his wedding.

“I keep chipping away at it every day, not knowing what the future holds,” Willoughby said on the podcast. “I know what the future holds if I stop.”

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MORE: U.S. sweeps world titles in BMX

Sydney Olympic Stadium will not be torn down after all

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The Sydney Olympic Stadium won’t be demolished in 2019 after all.

Stadium Australia, now named ANZ Stadium, will be renovated into a rectangular stadium rather than knocked down and rebuilt to save $500 million, the New South Wales government said Thursday.

In November, it was reported that the stadium would be demolished.

In 2000, Stadium Australia housed more than 100,000 people for the Opening Ceremony and evening track and field sessions (including Magic Monday).

Its capacity was trimmed after the Games closer to 80,000, regularly holding rugby and soccer matches as well as concerts.

Renovation construction is expected to start in late 2019 and be completed in 2021.

MORE: Fifteen memorable moments from Sydney Olympics

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