Mollie O’Callaghan has raced to her third medal of the world championships in Budapest by spearheading the Australia 4x200m freestyle relay quartet to silver.
Yet though she couldn’t bring home the main prize on the anchor leg in Wednesday’s final, the 18-year-old star also demonstrated earlier with an amazing swim in the 100m freestyle that a second gold could soon be on its way.
And Thursday also offers the scent of another gold with Zac Stubblety-Cook ready to dominate the 200m breaststroke final to complete an Olympics/world championship double.
Their efforts helped bring a smile back to the Dolphins after Shayna Jack had earlier been forced to quit the championships after slipping and breaking her hand in a warm-up area.
For the 23-year-old, the abrupt end to her first global competition after completing a two-year doping ban left her “broken-hearted”.
Later, Queenslander O’Callaghan took the limelight as she attempted to top off the efforts of Madi Wilson, Leah Neale and Kiah Melverton on the previous three legs of the 4×200 by overhauling American anchor-leg swimmer Bella Sims.
But having competed a breathtaking semi-final of the 100m only 90 minutes earlier, O’Callaghan, the individual 200m silver medallist, couldn’t get near the flying Sims.
After fine work from Claire Weinstein, Leah Smith and the great Katie Ledecky, who produced a decisive third leg, Sims brought the US home in a championship record 7 minutes 41.45 seconds, well clear of Australia (7:43.86).
“Coming in here I knew I would be swimming against Ledecky on that third leg and she is one of the best swimmers of all time,” Melverton said.
“I just did what I needed to do and held my ground and I thought I did a pretty good job of that. The 4×2 has such a great history in our country and so for us to get up and win a Silver medal together is pretty special.”
O’Callaghan, though, had earlier produced an astonishing performance in her individual semi, clocking the fastest-ever second half to a women’s race, amazingly shooting from last to first place over a landmark final length timed at 26.43sec.
That was just one-hundredth of a second slower than her first half of the race and her 52.85sec saw her qualify fastest for Thursday’s final, ahead of Sweden’s eight-time world champion Sarah Sjostrom.
Having also won gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay, O’Callaghan could potentially end up with six medals as she also has chances in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay and women’s 4x100m medley relay.
Stubblety-Cook looks to be untouchable in his Tokyo-winning event, after after setting a time of 2:06.72 in his 200m breaststroke semi which was over two seconds faster than his nearest challenger.
The Dolphins have now picked up eight medals in total – two golds, five silvers and one bronze – after five days of competition to put them fourth on the table behind the USA (11 golds), Italy (four golds) and China (three golds).
Teenager Elizabeth Dekkers made a breakthrough in the 200m butterfly, finishing fifth in the final in 2:07.01 behind Canadian champion, Summer MacIntosh, who clocked a world junior record 2:05.20.
“I’m happy with that swim and happy to get the chance to race with the world’s best, so it was great to swim that PB when it mattered most,” Dekkers said.
“That final was insane, everything I thought it would be and more so it was just an amazing experience.”
Kaylee McKeown had to settle for sixth in a blanket finish to the 50m backstroke – not her strongest discipline – but her 27.47sec clocking was, agonisingly, just 0.07 outside the medals as 0.08sec separated second to sixth places.