DUBAI // The World Junior Swimming Championships got off to a whirlwind start at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Sports Complex yesterday with five new event records sinking on the opening day.
Mackenzie Horton rewrote the boys 400-metre freestyle mark twice and then anchored Australia to the 4x100m freestyle gold in a record time. Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania also improved on the girls 50m breaststroke mark twice, while Ella Eastin of the US chipped the girls 400m individual medley record.
Horton first topped Fumiya Hidaka's 2011 swim of 3 minutes, 50.97 seconds with a 3:50.25 mark in the morning 400m freestyle preliminaries, then swam a blistering 3:47.12 in the finale, kicking ahead of Britain's James Guy (3:48.05) and Jan Micka of the Czech Republic at the 300m mark.
"I just really wanted to win, so I just wanted to chase it down and post the best possible time," said Horton, who was looking to prove a point after missing out on a spot in the Australian senior team for last month's World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona.
"I just wanted to swim as well as I could, try and match the time that people from Australia were doing at the worlds to prove that I could have been on the team, because I just missed out."
Guy, winner of the 200m and 400m freestyle gold at the European Junior Championships last month, led the pack approaching the 300m mark, with Micka in second and Horton trailing in third. The Australian, however, shifted gears with two laps to go and managed to take a comfortable lead to the finish.
"I tried to step it up in the last metres a lot more than I usually do, but it was a hard race," Guy said. "Definitely a hard race coming off the back of the World Championships and the European Juniors. Now we will see how it goes in the 200m [today]. I will give it a go."
In the relay, Horton swam his leg in 49.33 as Australia replaced Italy's 2008 championship record of 3:19.09 with a 3:16.96.
In the coming days, he will have the opportunity to add to his two gold medals. Horton is one of the favourites for the 1,500m freestyle and is also listed for the 800m and 200m freestyle, and the 4x200m freestyle.
"It [yesterday's win] gives me a bit of confidence, but I am definitely already tired," Horton said. "I've still got the 800m, the 200m, 4x200m as well. So we'll see how it goes."
The 50m breaststroke world-record holder Meilutyte clocked 31.10 seconds in the prelims to erase Amanda Reason's 2008 time of 31.25 from the record books. The Lithuanian, who set the world mark of 29.48 in the semis at the World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona last month, then improved on her morning time with a 30.04 in the evening semi-finals.
In the final tonight, she is hoping to do better than her Barcelona effort.
"I am really happy," Meilutyte said. "It's a good start. I was hoping for a 29, but maybe tomorrow."
Eastin was equally excited about her effort in the 400m IM, since she improved on Japanese Miyu Otsuka's mark of 4:40.98 with 4:40.02.
"I am really thrilled because this is the first time I am taking part in an international championship," said Eastin, 16. "I could not have asked for anything better."
The US won a second gold on the night when their girls 4x200m freestyle team finished way ahead of Australia (8:06.08) and Russia (8:16.21) in a championship-record 7:59.42. The US held the previous record of 8:00.33, set two years back.
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