In a remarkable moment for New Zealand swimming, Erika Fairweather (Ngāi Tahu) secured her first world championship title by winning the women’s 400m freestyle final in Doha. This achievement marked a significant milestone as she became the first New Zealander to earn a gold medal in a long course swimming world championship. Her victory was achieved in stunning fashion, with a personal best time of 3:59.44, making her one of the few women globally to break the four-minute barrier in this event.
Despite the absence of world record holder Ariarne Titmus and past champions Katie Ledecky and Summer McIntosh, Fairweather emerged as the favorite due to her excellent performance at previous competitions. She led the race from start to finish, finishing more than two seconds ahead of Li Bingjie of China and Germany’s Isabel Gose, who finished second and third respectively. The absence of these top swimmers added an extra level of excitement to Fairweather’s victory.
Fairweather’s achievement is a significant moment for New Zealand swimming, surpassing the country’s previous best performances at world championships, which included silver medals by Lauren Boyle, Danyon Loader, and Gary Hurring in various events. Fairweather’s triumph in Doha continues her rising trajectory in international swimming, marking her as a formidable competitor and a hopeful for New Zealand at the Paris Olympics. Her success in breaking the four-minute barrier not only establishes her as a leading swimmer on the world stage but also brings excitement and anticipation for her future endeavors in the sport.
In addition to Fairweather’s victory, another Kiwi swimmer, Eve Thomas, finished seventh in the same event. Thomas has been working hard behind the scenes and has shown great potential to become a top competitor on an international level. Her performance is an inspiration to young swimmers across New Zealand who aspire to reach new heights in their careers.