By Greg Stutchbury
GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) – Cate Campbell powered Australia to a world record in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Thursday, demonstrating that her year off to recover mentally from a disappointing Rio Olympics had worked wonders.
Campbell anchored the Australian quartet, which also included her sister Bronte, Shayna Jack and Emma McKeon, to clock three minutes, 30.05 seconds and beat their previous record of 3:30.65 from the Rio Olympics.
Canada finished second, with England third.
It was a satisfying return for Campbell, who had been a hot favorite to win gold in both the 50m and 100m freestyle at the Rio Games, but finished outside the medals in both.
Calling her 100m freestyle loss “the greatest choke in Olympic history”, she stepped away from competition in 2017 to refresh and returned at the Australian nationals last month.
“To come back from a year off and to be part of something where you’re the best in the world is a pretty special moment,” she told reporters.
“I’m going to make sure I stop and take a couple of breaths to take in how special this moment is because not many people get to experience it.
“This is the stuff of dreams and to have that in reality is something I’d never take for granted again.”
The Australians, who had won the title at the last six Games, were facing arguably their biggest threat in a Commonwealth final since they were beaten by England at the Victoria Games in 1994.
The Canadians had a strong back end to their team with Olympic 100m champion Penny Oleksiak swimming the third leg before handing over to Taylor Ruck, fresh from winning the 200 freestyle gold.
While Canada’s Alexia Zevnik had given her team a flying start, Bronte Campbell took over the race for the host nation and then McKeon, who had already swum two individual races, got them within sight of the world record as she destroyed Oleksiak by 1.34 seconds on the third leg.
Cate Campbell, whose tempo seemed to increase with the decibels as the 10,000-strong crowd willed her to the world record, then produced a flying final leg of 51.00 seconds.
“It’s the first time I think I’ve heard the crowd while I’m swimming,” she added. “I could hear them roaring as I was coming down the last 25m.
“I thought, ‘someone must be doing something special here’ and I thought we were being caught, but it was us breaking the world record.
“I think that was really incredible.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Toby Davis)