Finally, Mack Horton has been able to step up to the podium at the world swimming titles after steering Australia’s 4x200m freestyle men’s team to a stunning victory.
After his extraordinary medal ceremony protest against China’s Sun Yang, Horton happily took pride of place on the podium alongside teammates Clyde Lewis, Kyle Chalmers and Alex Graham as they received relay gold on Friday night.
Horton proved the difference in a see-sawing relay final as anchor, giving Australia victory in seven minutes, 00.85 seconds finishing almost a second ahead of Russia. The United States was third.
It marked the first time Australia had won the 4x200m freestyle relay world title since 2003.
It was Australia’s fifth gold of the meet and remarkably the fourth win out of five relays to date for the Dolphins at Gwangju.
“It was a very good end. That anchor leg’s always tough,” Horton said.
There’s a lot of pressure on it but I think it’s always a privilege to be able to anchor your team and just put the body on the line for the boys.”
More importantly for Horton it marked the first time the Australian stepped up to the podium in South Korea after staging a protest against controversial Sun at the meet’s opening night.
Horton sparked an international furore when he refused to acknowledge Sun after the Chinese star relegated him to 400m freestyle silver on Sunday.
Swimmers quickly threw their support behind Horton who was angry that Sun had been allowed to compete ahead of a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing in September.
Sun – who served a doping ban in 2014 – faces a lifetime suspension if found guilty of charges that he smashed a vial of his blood with a hammer in a clash with testers at his home last year.
Coincidentally Sun was swimming the anchor leg for a China team that finished sixth in the 4x200m relay final.
Earlier, Cate Campbell was relegated to 100m freestyle silver by American Simone Manuel who defended her world title in an American record.
Manuel clocked an American record 52.04 seconds – the fastest time of the year – to defend her world title and claim 100m gold from lane one, relegating Campbell to silver.
Campbell – the 2013 world champion – finished 0.39 seconds behind Manuel.
World record holder, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, took bronze.
“I didn’t see her (Manuel) out there. I was locked in a battle with Sarah,” said Campbell who was in lane four going toe to toe with Sjostrom.
“But it’s been a great week for me at the pool. To come away with a silver medal at a world championships is nothing to be sneezed at.”
The 100m freestyle title appeared Campbell’s to lose after her stellar start to the world championships, sealing two relay gold for Australia.
And she appeared to have the wood on Olympic champion Manuel ahead of the 100m final after beating the American in the final leg of both relays.
The last time they clashed Wednesday’s 4x100m mixed medley relay, Manuel led by a body length before Campbell reeled in the American to clinch a stirring victory.
But Campbell had no answer for Manuel on Friday, who took 0.23 off her personal best.
Still Campbell believed she had taken great strides toward Tokyo 2020 Olympics after her Rio meltdown.
Campbell took a 2017 sabbatical after arriving at the Rio Games as the hot favourite and world record holder, only to crash to sixth in the 100m final won by Manuel.
“I think this is a good stepping stone for me. It shows I can mix it with the best in the world,” she said.
I got the best of Simone a couple of nights ago and l look forward to racing her again.
“My goal coming here has been to shift the focus off the outcome and looking at the race I put together.
“While I was not 100 per cent happy with that race I think I have shown great improvements over the past couple of years.”
Remarkably Manuel took 1.27 seconds off her qualifying time to claim back-to- back world titles.
She became the second woman to win multiple titles in the 100 freestyle, joining Kornelia Ender of the former East Germany who claimed gold in 1973 and 1975.
Campbell said the loss would only make her hungrier to claim Olympic gold at Tokyo.
“I think it will be great for me going into Tokyo without a huge target on my back,” she said.
“I think that I have shifted the focus away from that now. It’s great to be back.”
Australia’s Emma McKeon was fourth in the 100m final.
A day after equalling the world record, Matthew Wilson had to settle for 200m breaststroke silver after Russian Anton Chupkov won in a new world record of two minutes, 06.12 seconds.
It was 0.55 faster than the mark shared by Wilson and Japan’s Ippei Watanabe.
In the women’s 200m backstroke, Minna Atherton (fourth fastest) and Kaylee McKeown (sixth) both made the final after American teenager Regan Smith set a world record two minutes, 03.35 seconds, erasing compatriot Missy Franklin’s mark at the 2012 Olympics.
In the men’s 100m butterfly semi-finals, Matthew Temple scraped into the final as eighth fastest after American Caeleb Dressel topped the timesheets in a world record 49.50 seconds, 0.32 quicker than Michael Phelps’ mark set in the 2009 supersuit era.
Brianna Throssell was sixth fastest for the 50m butterfly final.
McEvoy missed the 50m freestyle final.