Olympics-World champion swimmers duel in 400 freestyle in Australia

By Thomson Reuters Apr 16, 2024 | 11:59 PM

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The last three men’s 400 metres freestyle world champions will battle for the Australian Open Championships title on the Gold Coast later on Wednesday as Kim Woo-min, Elijah Winnington and Sam Short look to make a statement ahead of the Paris Olympics.

South Korean Kim, who edged 2022 world champion Winnington for the global title at Doha in February, led qualifying for the final with a time of three minutes, 44.75 seconds in the morning heats, pipping the home swimmer by 0.02 seconds.

Australian Short, who gave up his 2023 world title from Fukuoka by skipping Doha, was third fastest to set up an intriguing showdown in an event that promises to be a highlight of the Paris pool.

The first evening session will also see Australia’s powerhouse women’s freestyle programme on show when former world champion Mollie O’Callaghan takes on a slew of her Olympic relay team mates for the 100m title.

O’Callaghan won back-to-back 100m freestyle world championships in 2022-23 but opted out of Doha, relinquishing her title to Dutch swimmer Marrit Steenbergen.

The 20-year-old Queenslander qualified second fastest on Wednesday behind Meg Harris (52.60), while Shayna Jack was third quickest.

The stacked 100m final will also feature Australia’s Olympic champion Emma McKeon and veteran sprinter Cate Campbell, who were fourth and fifth fastest respectively.

Australia’s backstroke queen Kaylee McKeown showed she remains a force in the 200m individual medley by topping qualifying with a time of 2:08.66, the sixth fastest time of the year.

McKeown, the Olympic 100m and 200m backstroke champion, was top-ranked in the 200m medley before the Tokyo Games but withdrew from the event to focus on the backstroke and medley relay events.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Doha; Editing by Peter Rutherford)