TOKYO (AP) — After two years, Cate Campbell can finally forget about the heartbreak of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The Australian swimmer bombed in Rio, failing to win an individual gold medal. She collapsed in the 100-meter freestyle final when she was the favorite to win and finished a distant sixth.
That prompted her to take a reflective year off from competitive swimming.
It seems to have paid off on Friday at the Pan Pacific Championships, the biggest meet of the year for swimmers from the Pacific Rim region and a dress rehearsal for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Campbell won the 100 in 52.03 seconds, the second fastest time ever in the event. She also beat Rio gold medalist Simone Manuel of the United States, who finished second in 52.66.
“It shows that I can stand up when it counts and perform when it counts,” a jubilant Campbell said. “I can execute a good race under pressure. All of those things that I’ve been working on have finally come to fruition in 52 seconds.”
The 26-year-old Campbell talked about her love for swimming having been “reignited” by the Japanese crowd and her year away to live a “normal life.”
“I executed a smart race, which is what I wanted to do,” she added. “I swam my personal best time and those don’t come around very often now that you are my age.”
Manuel was slower in this race than she was in the recent national championships, which she called “disappointing.”
“I definitely think people expect a lot from me, but at the end of the day those credentials don’t matter,” she said. “I still have to step up on the blocks and swim fast. It doesn’t matter I won the gold medal.”
Manuel said the focus is now on the world championships next year in South Korea and, of course, the Olympics in Tokyo.
Australian teammate Kyle Chalmers, the Rio de Janeiro gold medalist, gave the county a sprint double by winning the men’s 100 freestyle in 48.00 and defeating Caeleb Dressel of the United States.
Dressel won seven gold medals last year at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, and is the rising American star in the post-Michael Phelps era.
Dressel and Australian rival Jack Cartwright tied for second in 48.22.
“It was not my best,” Dressel said. “Pretty far off my best. I would hope this time would never come, but it did. But we have to learn from it. I don’t really know if it’s a wake-up call as much as it is just a learning experience.”
The major power in world swimming, the United States, did get victories from Hali Flickinger in the 200 butterfly — 2:07.35 — and Ryan Murphy in the 100 backstroke. His winning time was 51.94.
Kylie Masse of Canada won the 100 backstroke in 58.61. American rival Kathleen Baker, who took the world record from Masse last month in the national championships (58.00), was third in 58.83.
Daiya Seto of Japan got thunderous applause at the Tatsumi International Swimming Center, taking the 200 butterfly in 1:54.34.
Australia’s women won the 800 relay in 7:44.12, and the United States won the men’s version in 7:04.36.