France claimed a stunning gold and set a new world record in the mixed 4x50m freestyle relay on a dramatic night of racing for European athletes at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Melbourne.
The quartet of Maxime Grousset, Florent Manaudou, Beryl Gastaldello and Melanie Henique were pushed all the way by Australia, but France’s finishing time of one minute 27.33 seconds was 0.70 secs quicker than that achieved by the host nation.
Both nations finished under the previous world record, 1:27.33, set by the USA in 2018.
“I haven’t been at the top of the podium and heard my national anthem since 2015, I had 19 major medals and now I have 20 and I like that number more,” Manaudou said with a smile.
“I had a lot of success earlier in my career, but after all these years I appreciate all those earlier medals even more today than I did before.”
The bronze went to the Netherlands, with Kenzo Simons, Thom de Boer, Maaike de Waard and Marrit Steenbergen combining to finish in 1:28.33.
Steenbergen, who claimed seven medals at the Roma 2022 Europeans, including a maiden individual title in the 100m freestyle, now has a world title to her name.
The 22-year-old won the 100m individual medley in a new national record of 57.53 secs, touching out Gastaldello (57.63) of France and Sweden’s Louise Hansson (57.68).
“It’s so unbelievable to see my name and hear that I am a world champion,” she told FINA.
“I felt pretty good all week and in the race I saw the girls and I thought, ‘I just have to fight for this’ and they really pushed me, so the result was really good and I am over the moon.”
100m backstroke world record holder Thomas Ceccon, who also won European 50m gold earlier this year, claimed his first individual world short course title in the men’s 100m IM.
The Italian won in 50.97 seconds ahead of Canadian duo Javier Acevedo (51.05) and Finlay Knox (51.10).
Ceccon then joined team-mates Matteo Ciampi, Alberto Razzetti and Paolo Conte Bonin in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay final, where they claimed bronze behind the USA and Australia, who both went under the previous world record time for the event.
Elsewhere Tes Schouten of the Netherlands added 200m breaststroke bronze to the 100m bronze she secured earlier in the week, while Kacper Stokowski of Poland also claimed bronze, in the men’s 50m backstroke.