Dunedin swimmer Erika Fairweather has made history, winning New Zealand’s first gold medal at the World Aquatic Championships, in Doha, Qatar, yesterday.
The 20-year-old controlled the 400m freestyle race from the start and never slowed, producing an electric personal best of 3min 59.44sec to secure a spot on the top of the podium.
She finished more than two seconds ahead of silver medallist Li Bingjie, of China, and bronze medallist Isabel Gose, of Germany.
Fairweather, who broke her own New Zealand record at the event, fist-pumped the air, and signalled No 1 with her hand in delight following her performance.
"I’m so excited," Fairweather said.
"How crazy was that? I’m so stoked with that time.
"I’m so happy with where I am right now and I’m so excited for what’s to come."
Fairweather was the pre-favourite in the absence of world record holder Ariarne Titmus and swimming powerhouses Katie Ledecky and Summer McIntosh - who Fairweather held her own against in the "race of the century" at last year’s world championships - all skipping the event, due to it being in an Olympic year for the first time.
The Neptune swimmer bettered her time from her bronze medal last year, where she finished in 3min 59.59sec in Fukuoka, becoming just the fifth woman to go under the four-minute mark.
She produced an Olympic qualifying time during the heats, booking her spot in the 400m freestyle in Paris later this year.
New Zealand’s previous best at a world championships was silver, claimed twice by Lauren Boyle in 2015 (800m freestyle and 1500m freestyle), Danyon Loader in 1994 (200m butterfly) and Gary Hurring (200m backstroke) in 1978.
Dunedin swimmer Caitlin Deans competed in the 1500m heats last night, alongside Thomas.