Title confidence boost for Paris

New Zealander Lewis Clareburt celebrates after his win in the 400m individual medley at the World...
New Zealander Lewis Clareburt celebrates after his win in the 400m individual medley at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha yesterday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Maybe a little bit of panic is all it takes to make Lewis Clareburt a world champion.

After finishing his 400m individual medley heat, the New Zealand swimmer left his bag outside the lunch area, and when he returned to collect it, it was gone.

Scrambling to find the missing bag — packed with his favourite race suits, goggles and accreditation — Clareburt was relieved when the "trustworthy" Doha staff reunited him with it.

Hours later, Clareburt, who qualified fifth for the final, was crowned world champion, winning the 400m IM in 4min 9.72sec, finishing 00.68sec ahead of Max Litchfield, of Great Britain. Daiya Seto, of Japan, won bronze.

Clareburt, 24, screamed "yes" when he saw the result, celebrating with a pukana and shooting an arrow from a bow, a nod to Kiwi UFC fighter Israel Adesanya who used the same celebration.

"It was just the whole bunch of emotions coming together at once," Clareburt said.

"I didn’t want to lose that race."

It was Clareburt’s first gold at the world championships — he won bronze in 2019 — and came at the right time as he reflected on a challenging few years since winning gold at the Commonwealth Games.

"I think I lost a lot of confidence in the last couple of years in myself and my ability," Clareburt said.

"Having that moment where I was able to swim a pretty good time, it just gives me more confidence now moving towards Paris."

While many big names skipped the world championships due to the Olympics, Clareburt said he and Erika Fairweather, who also won gold, earned their accolades.

"History never shows who isn’t there — history only shows who is there.

"We’re both still world champions in our eyes and that’s what people should look at us as.

"We go again in Paris — the clock resets."

Clareburt, who had a challenging week with six races in two days, qualified for the 400m IM at the Olympics, but has another chance to qualify for the 200m butterfly and 200 medley at trials in the coming months.

It had been a "rollercoaster" trying to regain composure after those events earlier in the week, but Clareburt was rapt his recent decision to move from Wellington to Auckland, and change coaches from Gary Hollywood to Mitch Nairn, paid off.

"It’s promising, but we’ve still got six more months of work to do together, and to refine what we’ve been able to put together this week, because I know come Paris, it’s got to be a whole lot faster to get on the podium."

And how does the world champion play to celebrate?

McDonald’s, after hearing about a "fancy" version in Doha.