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Budapest (AFP) – Elijah Winnington grabbed the first gold of the World Swimming Championships when he pulled away in the last lap to take the men’s 400m freestyle on Saturday in Budapest.
The Australian won in 3min 41.22sec, the fastest time in the event in a decade, to edge German Lukas Martens by 1.63sec with Brazilian Guilherme Pereira da Costa third.
Winnington said he had been determined to enjoy the experience.
“I wasn’t focusing on results,” the 22-year-old told journalists.
“You probably saw me walking out, I was looking around and just enjoying the experience, it’s my first world championships, my second international individual final apart from Olympics, so this time around I just wanted to enjoy it and clearly just enjoying it brings out the best in me.”
Winnington went out fast and was under world-record pace at both 100m and 200m.
“Fun is fast, and that’s what brought it out tonight,” he said, adding that he went out fast to “bleed” his rivals Martens and Austrian Felix Auboeck.
Martens came through to take the lead after 250m and was ahead after 300m, and 0.8sec inside the world-record split.
Winnington was a disappointing seventh in the Olympic final last year. The surprise Tokyo gold medallist Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia did not enter Saturday’s event.
In the morning heats, Winnington faded and was caught by Auboeck at the end. This time the Australian had something in reserve and surged past the wilting Martens in the final 50m.
“I don’t want to sound cocky but I knew in my mind I was going to be world champion that I was going to outswim Lukas next to me,” said Winnington.
Pereira da Costa surged from fifth to third on the last lap while Auboeck was unable to repeat his blazing finish.
The time was the fifth fastest ever and the best since stream-lined body suits were banned.
The victory ended a decade-long Asian domination of the event.
South Korean Park Tae-Hwan won in 2011 and China’s Sun Yang took the next four.
© 2022 AFP
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