Pan Zhanle has made headlines by breaking the men’s 100m freestyle world record and leading 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.
The first to be held in an Olympic year, Pan’s performance was noteworthy as some top swimmers opted not to compete at the worlds. With his remarkable record, Pan has established himself as a strong contender for the iconic 100m freestyle race at the Paris Olympics, where American Caeleb Dressel won in an Olympic record time of 47.02 at the previous Games in Tokyo in 2021.
In the women’s 4x100m free, the Netherlands outperformed Australia to win, with anchor Marrit Steenbergen posting the fastest split of the 32-swimmer field. Meanwhile, Erika Fairweather made history by becoming the first New Zealand swimmer to win a world title in the women’s 400m free. Her victory of 2.18 seconds over China’s Li Bingjie set the stage for her to challenge the three fastest women in history in the upcoming Olympic games.