Pan Zhanle made headlines by breaking the men’s 100m freestyle world record as he led off China’s gold medal-winning 4x100m free relay team at the world swimming championships in Doha. At just 19 years old, Pan split 46.80 seconds, taking six hundredths off the previous world record set by Romanian David Popovici in 2022. This impressive performance helped China win the relay by a one-second margin over Italy while the U.S. claimed bronze without their top 100m freestylers.
Pan’s remarkable record has established him as a strong contender for the iconic 100m freestyle race at the Paris Olympics, which American Caeleb Dressel won in an Olympic record time of 47.02 at the previous Games in Tokyo in 2021. Although some top swimmers opted not to compete at the worlds, which was held in an Olympic year, Pan’s performance was noteworthy.
In the women’s 4x100m free, Erika Fairweather made history by becoming the first New Zealand swimmer to win a world title in this event. Her victory over China’s Li Bingjie set her up to challenge the three fastest women in history in the upcoming Olympic games. Meanwhile, Australia outperformed Netherlands to win this race with anchor Marrit Steenbergen posting the fastest split of all competitors in this category.