In a historic moment for New Zealand swimming, 20-year-old Erika Fairweather (Ngāi Tahu) clinched her first world championship title by winning the women’s 400m freestyle final in Doha. This marked a significant milestone as she became the first New Zealander to secure a gold medal in a long course swimming world championship.
Fairweather’s victory was achieved in spectacular fashion, with a personal best time of 3:59.44, making her one of the few women globally to break the four-minute barrier in this event. The absence of world record holder Ariarne Titmus, along with past champions Katie Ledecky and Summer McIntosh, positioned Fairweather as the favorite, and she delivered flawlessly, leading the race from start to finish. She finished more than two seconds ahead of her closest competitor, Li Bingjie of China, with Germany’s Isabel Gose third.
This achievement has brought attention to fellow Kiwi swimmer Eve Thomas who finished seventh in the same event. Her triumph has also established her as a formidable competitor and a hopeful for New Zealand at the Paris Olympics later this year.
Fairweather’s success is a significant moment for New Zealand swimming, surpassing the country’s previous best performances at world championships which included silver medals by Lauren Boyle, Danyon Loader and Gary Hurring in various events. Her achievement not only establishes her as one of New Zealand’s top swimmers but also brings excitement and anticipation for her future endeavors in the sport.