Swimming star Shayna Jack might have had to wait five years to jump in a pool at the World Championships again, but the wait was worth it as she led Australia’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay team to a gold medal in Budapest.
The former Commonwealth Games gold medallist was banned for two years (originally four but overturned on appeal) in 2019 after she tested positive to Ligandrol, though the swimmer has always denied take the substance knowingly.
Jack swam the crucial anchor leg and kicked powerfully clear on the final lap, leading her teammates Mollie O’Callaghan, Madi Wilson and Meg Harris to a dominant two-second victory over Canada, with the US finishing with bronze.
It was a fairytale return for Jack, who was banned just prior to the 2019 World Championships, where she was tipped to challenge for gold medals.
Shayna Jack celebrates winning gold after an incredible final leg in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay
The gold medallists (left to right): Jack, Meg Harris, Madi Wilson and Mollie O’Callaghan
She said after the win it was a dream come true.
‘For me, I’ve lost my swimming career before so coming here, I had nothing to lose. I’m here to race, I’m here to have fun, I’m here to embrace the experience with everyone on the Australian team and other teams as well,’ Jack told News Corp.
‘Everyone’s been very supportive, not just the Aussies. I’ve definitely been welcomed back with open arms and that’s been such an amazing, uplifting feeling. Winning with these girls just makes it even better. It’s a great way to start the week for ourselves and the Australian team.’
Shayna Jack pushes ahead in the final leg of the 4 x 100m freestyle relay
Still just 23, Jack said she ‘felt a bit of pressure’, but looked to Australia’s proud history in swimming to give her a bit of inspiration.
‘And for me, knowing that the girls that have anchored in the past, like Cate and Emma and those amazing role models for us, it’s nice to be in that position and bring home the gold for these girls as well,’ she said.
Jack was all smiles as she celebrated returning to the World Championships in Budapest
Jack was far from the only major news story from the event, with Kyle Chalmers putting in a stunning effort to lead Australia to an unlikely silver medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
The South Australian, who won Aussie hearts when he won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, took time off after the National Championships in May.
Kyle Chalmers recovers after swimming the final leg for Australia in the 4 x 100m freestyle
Chalmers had lashed out at at speculation a swimming love triangle involving him, Cody Simpson and Emma McKeon was behind him going back on his decision to sit out the 100m butterfly at the world championships, which cost Simpson a spot.
He claimed media made him out to be the villain, before retreating to his home state and playing in an Australian Rules match despite his injury history with his shoulders.
It didn’t appear to affect ‘King Kyle’, who swam one of the fastest splits in history – 46.60 – in the anchor leg in what he later described as one of the best efforts of his career.
Silver medalists: Chalmers, Will Yang, Matthew Temple and Jack Cartwright
‘I challenge anyone to go through what I’ve gone through over this last little period and try and stand up and perform like that, especially this last little window where I’ve been completely slammed for doing what I’m best at.
‘I think that’s one of the best ones for me,’ he told News Corp.
‘Ten weeks ago I was 100 kilos and coming back from my second shoulder surgery so for me to be on this team at the world championships … that’s energising me.
‘It’s special and something that I want to be a part of, something I worked so hard for, I’ve sacrificed so much for so long to be here on this team, to be at the top and if my shoulders are feeling good and my mind’s feeling good, I want to be here representing my country.’
Kyle Chalmers prepares to dive into the pool ahead of the final leg
Though he referred to the drama surrounding the National Championships, an event that is clearly still in the back of his mind, Chalmers said his inspiration for the incredible swim was a gold medal for fellow Aussie Elijah Winnington.
‘I’ve seen some amazing races over the last eight years on the team, but for me, watching that today, I had goosebumps. I almost started crying. I didn’t know how to handle that,’ he said.
The World Championships continue until June 25, with Chalmers and Jack both set to feature in a number of individual events.