Sport | Swimming

‘Phenomenal result’: Erika Fairweather claims stunning bronze at world champs

The Ngāi Tahu swimmer is just the fifth woman to go under four minutes for the 400m freestyle.

New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather (Ngāi Tahu) has swum a stunning race to claim bronze in the 400m freestyle at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

Fairweather swam a personal best of more than a second to record a time of 3:59.59s, making her just the fifth-ever woman to go sub-four minutes in the 400m freestyle.

19-year-old Fairweather from Dunedin placed third behind Australia’s Ariane Titmus, who set a world record time of 3:55.38s, and the USA’s Katie Ledecky who placed second in 3:58.73s.

“That race was one of the most hyped-up races of the meet. We had the world champion, the Olympic champion and the world record holder in the race,” said Fairweather.

“To be racing with them was special and to get up on the podium with them was so cool. I really wanted to break that four-minute mark, that was my main goal, I had a bit of fun with it and also managed to end up with a bronze medal around my neck so I’m beyond stoked.”

Fairweather was sitting in fourth for much of the race behind former world record holder, Canadian Summer McIntosh.

Fairweather held on to the Canadian, swimming a massive 29.09s final 50m to run her down and take bronze.

The medal is New Zealand’s first at the World Aquatics Championships since Lewis Clareburt won bronze in the 400m induvial medley in 2019. She is just the sixth New Zealander to win an Aquatics World Championship medal.

Swimming New Zealand Olympic Pathway Lead Gary Francis says it’s a phenomenal result.

“Erika and her coach Lars Humer have been working extremely hard towards this and we couldn’t be more proud of her,” said Francis.

“To stand up internationally and become the fifth fastest woman ever over 400m is a phenomenal result and kicks off our campaign in the best possible way.”

Four-time Commonwealth Games medallist Lewis Clareburt was the other New Zealander who made it through to the finals of day one at the Championships.

Competing in his favoured 400m individual medley Clareburt swam 4:11.29s to take sixth place, with Frenchman Leon Marchand setting a world record time of 4:02.50s to take gold.

Five New Zealanders will be in action tomorrow as the competition continues at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka.