SWIMMING fans around the world held their breath tonight as competitors in both the men’s and women’s 100m freestyle put on a spectacular show of speed and style as they splashed through the two lap dash at the 2014 Hancock Prospecting Pan Pacific Swimming Championships on the Gold Coast.
Heralding a new era of sprint freestyle, Cameron McEvoy went out fast and couldn’t be caught, eventually hitting the wall to win gold in a time of 47.82, to set a new Pan Pacs record.
McEvoy lifted to perform under pressure, swimming against Olympic Champion Nathan Adrian, back-to-back World Champion James Magnussen and the greatest ever Olympian Michael Phelps.
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A Gold Coast local, the crowd roared as McEvoy soared home in the final 50 metres, clear of his rivals to be the only athlete under 48 seconds.
“To me, it felt pretty perfect,” McEvoy said after the race.
“Anytime you swim in front of a home crowd, it’s always going to feel great with your friends and family in the crowd.
And also, I was just happy to be there in such great company in that race.
Going out, I just wanted to enjoy it because when’s the next time I’ll be able to be in a race with people like that?”
With results like this, McEvoy should be prepared to race ‘people like that’ more and more as the two-year countdown to the Rio Olympic Games begins.
“You have always got to have in the back of your mind that you do have the possibility of winning,” he said.
“But in saying that, I wouldn’t have been disappointed if I didn’t win.
That’s one of the best ways I can approach a race – just being relaxed and being grateful that I am there.”
Despite suffering from a painful disc injury in his back, Magnussen came away with the bronze medal, clocking a time of 48.36.
“I didn’t quite have the preparation to go fast tonight,” Magnussen said.
“I was in a lot of pain and I had eight days out of the water. I’ve raced with back pain before, although probably not this serious but you only get so many chances in your lifetime to represent your country so I was pretty determined to try and swim. I put it on the line tonight – that was all I had.”
Olympic champion, Adrian wasn’t quite able to replicate his blistering heat swim, finishing in 48.30 with the silver medal.
His countryman Phelps, came into the meet with a level of uncertainty, returning to international competition for the first time since announcing his retirement in 2012.
After a fast morning heat, any uncertainty was gone – the best ever was back. Phelps swam 48.51 in the final, a time that left him just shy of the podium but ensured he’d be on the blocks at next year’s World Championships, the launching pad to Rio 2016.
Determined to not be upstaged by the boys, Cate Campbell and sister Bronte delivered a magical sister act in the women’s 100m freestyle to a sold out home crowd.
Cate pulled off a blistering swim to finish in 52.72, just missing her own record set in this morning’s heats.
“I won’t lie, I was feeling a bit of the fast swim from this morning – it was stinging a little bit,” the 22-year-old said.
“I’m happy to come away with the win. This meet isn’t so much racing for times it’s about racing for places because everyone is in a bit of a world of pain at the moment and we are all pulling through and I’m so incredibly proud of everyone.”
Campbell now has the World, Commonwealth and Pan Pacs titles to her name – with the final piece of the puzzle awaiting her in Rio.
“Absolutely – I am so excited,” she said about going for gold at the next Olympics. “I almost don’t want to have a break. Almost! I’ll definitely be taking a little bit of time off and then refocusing. We have two years to go and it’s looking very good.
Younger sister Bronte improved on her heat time, clocking 53.45 to grab silver ahead of Simone Manuel of the USA (53.71).
“I love to win but I was proud of my race tonight and if I’m going to finish second then there is no one I’d rather finish second to than Cate,” said Bronte.
Another Campbell waiting in the wings…waiting for Rio.