Curzan beats Aussie teen Anderson
Australia's Iona Anderson (L) smiles with champ Claire Curzan after winning a second silver in Doha. Image by AP PHOTO
  • swimming

Dolphins teen Anderson pipped for gold in world titles

Ian Chadband February 16, 2024

Iona Anderson has just missed out on gold at the world championships, but the astonished 18-year-old was still left delighted at picking up her second silver of the week in Doha in the 50m backstroke.

On a day when bronze for the Australian women’s 4x200m freestyle relay quartet in the final event took the Dolphins’ overall tally of swimming medals into double figures, Anderson’s continuing breakthrough took pride of place at the Aspire Dome.

Already a surprise silver medallist in the 100m back, West Australia’s world junior champ produced a dazzling late surge in the one-lap sprint to finish just two-hundredths of a second behind Claire Curzan, the American who also beat her for gold in the longer race.

Curzan, only 19 herself, got away the quickest in Thursday’s (Friday AEDT) final to open up an early lead which she clung on to for her third gold of the week in 27.43 seconds.

Medallists at the worlds
 50m backstroke champion Claire Curzan (C) with Anderson (L) and Canada’s bronze winner Ingrid Wilm. Image by AP PHOTO 

But Anderson, trying to keep the absent Kaylee McKeown’s title in Australia, surged through, being just denied in 27.45.

With Canada’s Ingrid Wilm third in 27.61, it was the same finishing order as in the 100m back.

It marked another terrific day for Anderson, who gave up gymnastics six years ago to concentrate on swimming.

Asked at poolside if she could actually believe she’d be taking home two medals, she laughed: “Definitely not!

“I just aimed to make the final as well for experience. I definitely didn’t expect this.”

In the 4×200, the ever-busy Brianna Throssell picked up her 16th world medal and Shayna Jack her 14th as they teamed up with Abbey Harkin and Kiah Melverton for another podium visit alongside champions China and Great Britain.

Jaclyn Barclay also swam for the Dolphins in the heats.

The Dolphins had chosen to front-load the final four with their quickest pair, with breaststroke specialist Harkin, taking over in second place, keeping them in the hunt on the third leg in third before Melverton brought them home in 7min 51.41sec.

The victorious Chinese four of Ai Yanhan, Gong Zhenqi, Li Bingjie and Yang Peiqi clocked 7:47.26.

Jack had earlier qualified for Friday’s 100m free final but will have her work cut out, having qualified fourth fastest from the semis (53.16sec) as Dutch star Marrit Steenbergen went quickest in 52.53.

Opportunity knocks, though, after Sweden’s world-record holder Sarah Sjostrom pulled out before the morning heats.

Jack, silver medallist in Fukuoka last year, shrugged: “I think most of us didn’t really expert her to race this event, she has already said that she won’t swim it in Paris. I’m just focusing on my race and there’s still work to do.”

Elsewhere, China’s Pan Zhanle shone again by taking the blue riband men’s 100m freestyle title.

The 19-year-old, who’d recorded the fastest 100m in history in 46.80sec in the lead-off leg of the 4x100m free final four days earlier, this time clocked a slightly anti-climactic 47.53, but it was still comfortably enough to win gold.

“I know it’s only the beginning. I will keep moving forward and let’s meet in Paris,” he told the crowd in the Aspire Dome.

Aussie world champion Kyle Chalmers, America’s Olympic gold medallist Caeleb Dressel and Romania’s former world champ David Popovici, who’ve all skipped Doha, will doubtless be there in Paris to meet him.

Britain’s Laura Stephens won the women’s 200 butterfly, while Finlay Knox gave a makeshift Canadian team their first gold of the week in the 200m individual medley.