Seebohm breaks Australian gold drought

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    Emily Seebohm. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Australia’s gold drought is finally over at the world swimming championships in Budapest after Emily Seebohm set a national record to defend her 200m backstroke crown.

    On the penultimate night of the eight-day titles, Seebohm, 25, clocked two minutes, 05.68 seconds to hold out local hope Katinka Hosszu with American Kathleen Baker third.

    Australia’s Kaylee McKeown – just 16 years old – set a junior world record (2:05.85) to finish fourth on debut.

    It capped a remarkable comeback for Seebohm, who considered walking away from the sport after health issues sabotaged her Rio Olympic campaign.

    “I am just amazed at what I have been able to achieve tonight,” said Seebohm.

    “But if I had won or lost tonight I would have been so proud of my performances and what I have overcome.”

    It was also an enormous relief to an Australian team that had been running out of time to finally register gold.

    Bronte Campbell (100m freestyle), Mitch Larkin (100m-200m backstroke) and Seebohm (100m backstroke) had earlier failed to defend their world titles in Hungary.

    There was a real fear Australia may go without gold at a world titles for the first time since 1986.

    But Seebohm ensured Australia jumped from 12th to seventh on the table by striking gold and boosting their tally to eight medals, including five silver.

    The United States lead with 14 gold, 10 silver and seven bronze.

    The Americans were sparked on day seven by Caeleb Dressel (100m butterfly, 50m freestyle and a world-record 4x100m mixed freestyle relay) who became the first person to win three gold medals in one day.

    Seebohm left Rio in tears after failing to qualify for the 200m final as the hot favourite and finishing second last in her pet event, the 100m backstroke.

    A member of the Australian team since she was 14, Seebohm considered retirement before being urged by her partner Larkin to give it another try.

    She had also been battling endometriosis at Rio, a painful condition where tissue usually found inside the uterus grows outside.

    She underwent surgery to treat it in late 2016 and has not looked back.

    “Mitch was my saviour, to keep pushing me and help me through every stage,” Seebohm said.

    Spurred on by a fanatical crowd, Hosszu looked set to pull off a major boilover when she loomed large in lane one.

    But Seebohm said the raucous fans only added to her resolve.

    “It helped me give a little bit more than I had,” said Seebohm, who claimed gold by 0.17 of a second.

    Seebohm denied that there was pressure to grab an elusive gold but hoped her breakthrough win would inspire Australia on the final day.

    World champion Campbell (50m freestyle), Rio 400m gold medallist Mack Horton (1500m freestyle) and Australia’s men’s and women’s medley relay teams will be in finals action on day eight.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • July 31st 2017 @ 10:08am
      republican said | July 31st 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

      Australian Swimming as with all sports is insidiously falling most developed nations and especially NZ.
      I personally don’t believe this is due to a lack of elite resources but more an endemic grass roots problem and an abject lack of engagement with activity on the part of our young people. I also believe Swimming Australia has a systems issue and should look to change when it holds it nationals as one eg.
      I also understand that Swimming is not so inherent of our sporting culture as it once was. The choice of sports on offer and the changing ethnic diaspora amongst others, sees a shift in GR patronage, while Swimming struggles to sustain GR engagement especially for boys compared to other sports.
      As with Tennis in this country, the day is nigh when Australia will no longer expect to rely on this traditional sporting institution for international accolades at meets i.e. the Olympic Games.
      Perhaps an indicator of our decline in sport at the GR’s is evident at the Junior Commonwealth Games where the Australian Swim Team finished below England, South Africa, NZ and Singapore on the table, while NZs young team managed 7 gold medals while the Australian team didn’t glean a solitary gold medal………..

      • August 1st 2017 @ 10:11pm
        Jameswm said | August 1st 2017 @ 10:11pm | ! Report

        And in athletics, we topped the tally by miles. 8 gold, next best were England and NI with 2. I was there! It was Commonwealth Youth Games to be precise.

        63 athletes going to Athletics World championships, our best ever.

        Maybe the tide is turning, excuse the pun.

    • August 2nd 2017 @ 5:15pm
      republican said | August 2nd 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

      ………That NZ who are not a Swimming nation, can glean 7 gold in the pool and Australia diddly is concerning, while even Singapore managed to win gold in the pool. NZ easily defeated us at the last Olympics in Track & Field as well.
      This is why I continue to challenge our long held benevolence towards NZ sport, especially in affording them membership of our domestic leagues and in the case of Swimming, allowing them to enter our nationals amongst others.
      NZ DO NOT require any assistance form us, not one iota, while we have never had the luxury of having a neighbour so geographically close in enhancing our sporting status and pedigree.

      • August 4th 2017 @ 8:29am
        jameswm said | August 4th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        You do realise that our best swimmers were at the world Champs, don’t you? And this was our 2nd tier team?

        Still – it might have been the same for NZ. And I expect our next tier to be c lose to our best swimmers.

        NZ are not close to us in track and field though.

        • August 4th 2017 @ 5:22pm
          republican said | August 4th 2017 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

          …….they were well ahead of us in Track & Field at the last Olympics James, while you might be excused for expecting them to be as NZ have always been very good at Track & Field – but Swimming, now that is concerning even at the GR.
          So in respect of the Commonwealth Youth Games if this was our second tier squad then this result would make more sense because NZ does not have the depth to NOT send their very best youth to this meet.
          That said, NZ’e superiority in the pool is unprecedented, giving further weight to the continuing decline of the sport here in Oz me thinks……..

          • August 9th 2017 @ 3:15pm
            Wombat said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

            The team sent to Commonwealth Youth Games was most certainly a B selection of our age groupers; containing NONE of those selected for the upcoming World Junior Championships in Indianapolis starting Aug23. Having said that, the team that is being sent to THAT meet is of significantly lesser calibre to the team for the previous World Juniors (2015).

            Having shuddered at the gargantuanly bloated AUS Olympic team in Rio, I certainly DO think AUS Olympic officials need to adjust to the realities of “now” and start going to school on the NZL model; a much “leaner” team both with regards to the individual sports (and more targetted selection policies) and which sports actually get their tickets punched.

            You are right in saying that AUS swimming has a grass-roots problem but it is not isolated to swimming alone but is also endemic across many other Olympic sports in this country. And its a $$$ one, but not one of funding ….. but rather the reality that the sheer expense of a serious competitive career in many sports (even at age level) is rendering them no longer “sports of the people” but rather contracting the talent pool available almost exclusively to those of more affluent/private schools backgrounds. This trend has been evident for probably 15 years but now it is really starting to bite as regards its impacts.

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