Sian Whittaker is quickly becoming the Australian star of the 2017 World University Games in Taipei, claiming her second gold medal with a heart-stopping lunge to the wall to claim the 100m backstroke final.
In even more dramatic fashion than her fingernail-tip win in the 200m backstroke on Monday night, Whittaker mowed down American Hannah Stevens in the final five metres to take the win in 1:00.14, just .09 ahead of the American who clocked 1:00.23, with Japan’s Anna Konishi third in 1:00.33.
After turning for home in sixth place after a swift opening 50m, not even Whittaker could describe how she managed to haul in the American.
“I have no idea… I guess finishes are important and I work on my finishes in training so it paid off,” Whittaker laughed after her medal ceremony.
“I went out .4 fastest than last night, so that was better, but I just fought the last 15m.”
Whittaker said she couldn’t see Stevens two lanes to her left, so just pushed to the wall.
“I had no idea. I could see the girls beside me but I couldn’t see the outside lanes but I got my hand to the wall.”
Coming into the meet in Taipei, Whittaker, 20 and a first-year primary education student at Deakin University in Melbourne had hopes of a podium finish in the 200m backstroke, but never dared contemplate two gold medals.
“I thought maybe the 200m, it’s been stronger than my 100m, but after last night’s swim (in the semi) I sort of believed I could get the double.
She still has the 50m backstroke to come, along with the medley relay. Is the 50m too short?
“Probably… yep… it’s a bit short,” she laughed.
With Emily Seebohm winning the 200m backstroke at the recent world championships, Australia has a rising backstroker who could join the established star on the starting blocks at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
In other events on day four in the pool.
After winning the bronze medal in the 800m and 1500m freestyle in Gwangju two years, ago, Kiah Melverton (Griffith University) returned in search of more medals in the 1500m freestyle final. After qualifying 5th fastest and swimming a conservative first half, Melverton powered through the third 500m to put herself into the medal mix but wasn’t able to reach Hannah Moore of the US who won the bronze. Melverton clocked 16:15.83 – six seconds faster than her bronze medal winning time from 2015.
The gold went to world championships bronze medallist Simona Quadarella of Italy who broke the Games record with a first ever sub 16 minute Universiade swim in 15:57.90, with Sarah Koehler (GER) winning silver.
It was a busy night for Melverton who returned for the 4x200m freestyle final. After qualifying 5th fastest in the morning heats, the team of Laura Taylor (Bond University), Gemma Cooney (The University of Queensland), Melverton and Abbey Harkin (Griffith University) clocked 8:04.76 to finish 7th.
In the other final featuring a Uniroo on night four, 2013 Universiade and Glasgow Commonwealth Games gold medal winner over the 50m backstroke, Ben Treffers (Australian National University) finished 7th in the final of his pet event in 25.21.
In a tough morning in the pool, Leiston Pickett (Griffith University) returned after finishing 6th in the 100m breaststroke to race the heats of the 200m event where she clocked 2:34.83 to finish 7th and 20th place overall.
In the women’s 100m butterfly heats, Gemma Cooney (The University of Queensland) was the best of the Uniroos, stopping the clock in 1:00.06 for 6th in her heat and 9th fastest time into the semi-final. She went under the minute in the semi, clocking 59.77 for 6th and 10th fastest overall. The University of NSW’s Emily Washer clocked 1:01.73 for 5th in her heat and 25th overall.
The men’s 100m freestyle saw Brayden McCarthy (Brisbane TAFE) and Will Stockwell (The University of Queensland) in action. McCarthy has been battling a stomach bug in Taipei, and it showed with his 50.65 for 3rd in his heat and 31st overall. Stockwell went 50.15 for 6th in his heat, but missed the semi-finals in 18th overall.
In the 800m freestyle heats, Josh Parrish (Griffith University) won his heat in 8:03.77, however in a high-quality event that featured 1500m world and Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri, he finished 13th overall and missed the final.