Isaac Cooper
Isaac Cooper celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 50m Backstroke final in Doha. Image by AP PHOTO
  • swimming

Cooper, relay women win gold for Australia at worlds

Glenn Moore February 19, 2024

Isaac Cooper and the women’s 4x100m medley relay team have ensured Australia finished the world swimming championships on a high, winning two gold medals on the final night in Doha to bring their tally in the pool to three. 

Cooper put previous heartbreak behind him to top the podium in the men’s 50m backstroke.

He was soon followed by the women’s 4x100m medley relay team who claimed the final gold of the meet to confirm the Dolphins’ third place on the medal table.

With three golds, nine silvers and four bronzes, Australia’s 16-medal tally in the pool was only exceeded by the USA (20 overall, with eight gold). 

China won more golds (seven) than the Aussies in an 11-medal haul that also included three silvers and one bronze. 

Those closing night golds took Australia’s overall tally at the combined world aquatics event to seven golds, 12 silvers and five bronzes – with other podium places coming in the diving (two golds, two silvers, one bronze), open water (one gold, one silver) and high diving (one gold) competitions. 

Sam Williamson, in the 50m breaststroke, claimed Australia’s other gold in the pool.

Isaac Cooper
 Cooper on the podium after winning gold at the World Aquatics Championships. Image by AP PHOTO 

Cooper stunned world-record holder Hunter Armstrong of the USA on Sunday, leading from the start to beat the defending champion by 0.2 seconds. Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk was third.

The Queenslander even survived hitting the lane rope multiple times on his way to claiming the title in 24.13 seconds.

“I told my coach I would love a go at going under 24 (seconds) tonight but I whacked my finger a couple of times … the roof is curved … so it was a bit of a mind game to swim straight,” Cooper said.

“I am really proud of that swim … I have no idea what I am capable of, but it’s up to the individual to test it.

“This event isn’t on the Olympic program so my goal is to now focus on 100 back, and the 50m free. 

“I would love to one day become the fastest man in the world – whether it happens this year or in 10 years. 

“But I also know my country needs me for the backstroke, in the relays, so I’m training for that as well.”

It is the first individual win at a global championships for the Bundaberg swimmer, who was devastated to miss out on solo gold at the short-course world titles in Melbourne in 2022.

There he won two relay golds but a fiasco in the 50m backstroke final, which he won but was forced to re-race after a starting mix up, cost him personal glory.

“All I want to do is be able to stand on top. Every time I get close, I get knocked back again,” Cooper, who ended up with the silver medal in Melbourne, said at the time.

“If I can come back from this I know I will be a better person and athlete.”

Come back he has, earning his reward in Qatar where he had already collected silver as part of Australia’s mixed medley relay team.

Shayna Jack
 Shayna Jack brings home the anchor leg for Australia’s women’s 4x100m medley relay team in Doha. Image by AP PHOTO 

Cooper received his medal immediately before Shayna Jack made her assault on the women’s 50m freestyle. 

His fellow Queenslander was unable to follow his lead, finishing fourth in 24.27 in a race won by 50m butterfly gold medallist Sarah Sjoestroem.

Jack soon bounced back, though, producing a stunning final leg in the 4×100 relay to take Australia to first place after Iona Anderson, Brianna Throssell and Abbey Harkin had laid the platform.

These were Jack and Throssell’s sixth medals of the eight-day campaign, and Harkin’s fifth.

“Every single girl here did their job, that’s why we are No.1,” Jack said. 

“(Australia) are in a great position (heading into Paris).”