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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