GOLDEN GIRLS: Gold medallists Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon and Emily Seebohm pose during the podium ceremony of the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan.
GOLDEN GIRLS: Gold medallists Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon and Emily Seebohm pose during the podium ceremony of the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan. CHRISTOPHE SIMONAFP

Women strike gold but men flounder

AUSTRALIA'S female swimmers were again left to fly the flag on a disastrous night for the men on day one of the world championships in Russia.

Youngster Jessica Ashwood got proceedings under way with a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle final which was taken out by American teenage superstar Katie Ledecky.

The Aussie team then picked up its first gold of the meet with a comprehensive victory in the 4x100m freestyle relay, with Emily Seebohm, Emma McKeon and sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell combining in a new championship record time of three minutes 31.48 seconds.

The result stamped the girls as the team to beat at next year's Rio Olympics, Bronte Campbell saying the result was a dream come true after finishing second in the event in Barcelona two years ago.

"We got a silver together in 2013 and that was amazing, but to stand up on the podium together in front of the world to sing the national anthem with your big sister is something not many people get to do," the 21-year-old said.

"It's the highlight of the year for me."

The win was a bonus for Seebohm who is in the team primarily to contest the backstroke events.

While the girls were thrilled with their medals, it was mostly bad news for the men.

Australia had two of the top three swimmers in the world in the men's 400 freestyle, but neither 19-year-old world No.1 Mack Horton nor No.3 David McKeon were able to make the final.

Horton finished 11th in the heats, with a time more than five seconds slower than his personal best, while McKeon could only manage 10th.

"Being at my first major meet, I was aware of the pace needed to make the final, but I guess I wasn't ready to swim that quick in the heat - it kind of caught me by surprise," Horton said.

After dominating the event from 1994 to 2005, Australia has been without a medal since Grant Hackett's silver in 2007.

Worse was to come in the 100m breaststroke when defending world champion Christian Sprenger failed to advance from the heats, posting the 28th best time.

In the men's 4x100m freestyle relay heats, the team paid the price for head coach Jacco Verhaeren's decision to rest Pan Pacific champion Cameron McEvoy, with the Aussies unable to make the final.

Meanwhile, the men's water polo team will chase a spot in the semi-finals, and automatic qualification for the Rio Olympics, when it takes on Greece in the quarter-finals tonight.

The Sharks haven't reached the last four at the world championships since Australia last hosted the meet in Perth in 1998.


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