The Australians salute after claiming gold.
The Australians salute after claiming gold.

Campbell’s golden effort blows away USA

THE Australians arrived feeling sick, tired and like animals in a slumber but left with golden smiles and the title of champions of the world in a hip new swimming event that is going to debut at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

While the mixed medley relay is a relatively new event which teams are still working out the best way to swim, Australia's gold medal winning performance at the world championships Wednesday night was one for the ages.

The winning quartet of Mitch Larkin, Matthew Wilson, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell combined to win the gold by just 0.02 seconds - about the length of a finger - from a star studded U.S. line-up.

But how each of them did it is the stuff of legends.

Larkin swam the opening backstroke leg less than 15 minutes after finishing his 200m individual medley semi so was running on fumes.

"I don't want to admit it but it was up there. But swimming for relays is fantastic, you swim for your country more than yourself," he said.

The mixed medley will be held at the Olympics for the first time next year and Australia are now guaranteed an automatic spot.

With each team required to field two male and two female swimmers, but in any order they like, strategy plays as big a part as speed in determining the winner.

"It is so much fun to swim," said Wilson, who swam the breaststroke leg.

"You don't know where you are in the race because everyone has got different legs.

"I'm going to remember this one for ever."

McKeon was so ill earlier in the week that she withdrew from the 200m freestyle race and not only rose from her sick bed to race, but kept close enough to American sprint sensation Caeleb Dressel on the butterfly leg to give Australia a chance of winning.

"I knew that the boys would be coming at me so I kind of just shut my eyes as soon as I turned because I didn't want to see where they were and just swam as hard as I could home," she said.

Campbell, who hasn't raced since anchoring Australia's 4x100m freestyle relay to victory on Sunday night, dived in a body length behind Simone Manuel - the Olympic gold medallist from Rio - but mowed her down to plant her hands on the wall first in the nick of time.

"I feel like a bear who has been in hibernation," she said.

"I was starting to get a little bit restless in the apartment.

"I was like 'come on let me out, let's start racing again there are only so many episodes of Friends I can watch'."

MICHAEL PHELPS' RECORD SMASHED

Swimming's next budding superstar has just announced his arrival with one of the biggest splashes imaginable.

Just 19, Kristof Milak did what nobody thought was possible when he smashed Michael Phelps' 200m butterfly world record.

Leaving his rivals dead in the water, the Hungarian reached the wall in 1:50.73, demolishing the previous world record of 1:51.51 that Phelps set a decade ago.

Milak finished more than three seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, an unheard of margin in the event, and had enough time to reach the end and turn around before the last finalist got home.

There was a silver lining to Ariarne Titmus’s 200m freestyle gold quest.
There was a silver lining to Ariarne Titmus’s 200m freestyle gold quest.

SILVER FOR 'ARNIE' TITMUS

It wasn't quite the result she hoped for, but the world has been put on notice that the Terminator will be back and will be a force to be reckoned with at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Swimming for the first time as the hunted after spending her life as the hunter, Ariarne Titmus came agonisingly close to pocketing her second gold medal of the world championships in the women's 200m freestyle.

It was only a brilliantly executed performance by Italian world record holder Federica Pellegrini that denied her the gold but Titmus managed to get the silver in a slick time of 1:54.66 after leading with a lap to go.

Ariarne Titmus now has a gold and silver in South Korea.
Ariarne Titmus now has a gold and silver in South Korea.

A hard taskmaster, the Tasmanian teenager was disappointed to finish second after her stunning win over Katie Ledecky in the 400m but realistic and mature enough to know it was still a great result and she'll only be better in a year's time at the Tokyo Olympics.

"It's a silver medal at a world championships, which is great, but on training times I probably thought I had a better swim in me," she said.

"But what can you do, it's what you can do on the day and Pellegrini was really good tonight.

"Second in the world is great but I have pretty high standards obviously. I would have loved the gold by I just wasn't good enough to get there tonight."

If anything, the narrow loss will do Titmus the world of good. A ferocious competitor, the 18-year-old is at her best when's she got a target to aim at and the veteran Italian, 12 years her senior, just provided her with all the motivation she needs.

Whatever precious metals she ends up taking home from this week, and she still has the 4x200m relay and another date with Ledecky in the 800m freestyle, one thing's for sure, she'll get straight back to work.

"Pellegrini's a true champion, world record holder and for her to beat me, I'm OK," Titmus said.

"I'm looking for toward to the 800. I haven't swum a great 800 since Pan Pacs last year so I'm excited to see what I can do this week."