The United States overcame a spirited challenge from host nation Australia to win the head-to-head duel between the swimming rivals in Sydney.
- The USA has now triumphed in all eight Duel in the Pool events
- History was made when para and able-bodied swimmers competed in the same event for the first time
- The 26-point deficit was the closest Australia has come to beating the USA
It took the USA until the dying stages of the 39-event program to secure victory then pull away to finish with 309 to 283 points, as Australia stayed within touching distance without ever quite snatching the lead on the second night of Duel in the Pool.
Australia started the final night trailing 147-160 after a recalculation of points earned in the open water relay on Friday and the first night at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre on Saturday.
The host nation narrowed the gap in the opening race on Sunday, the 6x50m freestyle relay in which the three swimmers on each team race two legs, but Australia failed to win enough back-to-back races throughout the night to claim the lead.
History was made when retiring Australia star Ellie Cole joined fellow para-athlete Will Martin, as well as Emma McKeon and Grayson Bell, in the first relay to feature para and able-bodied swimmers in the same event.
McKeon returned to win double points in the 100m butterfly after Australia used their ‘flag frenzy’ wildcard but the superstar watched the remainder of the meet from the poolside as the USA gradually proved their supremacy.
“It was a really cool concept bringing two incredible swimming nations together to compete,” McKeon said.
“I’m a bit upset that we didn’t win in our own backyard.
“I did think we would win this meet, so I did get sucked into the scores a bit.”
There would be no repeat of Australia’s famous victory in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay at the same venue during the Sydney Olympics in 2000, when Gary Hall Junior was proven wrong after claiming the USA would “smash them like guitars”.
The USA this time narrowly beat Australia in the event that arguably sparked the rivalry, with world championship gold medallist Ryan Held powering home in the final leg.
Australia closed the Duel in the Pool with victory in the mixed freestyle relay, where the USA swam 2x200m and the hosts covered 4x100m with the raucous crowd cheering teenage sensation Mollie O’Callaghan home.
“The turn-out was amazing, the crowd was awesome. It proves that Aussies want to see us swim,” McKeon said.
“I haven’t seen that many people at a swimming event in Australia in my whole career, so that was just awesome to race in front of and made it so much more fun.”
The USA has now triumphed in all eight Duel in the Pool events, including in 2003, 2005 and 2007 against Australia, while also beating combined European squads in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015.
This was the closest Australia has come to matching the swimming superpower in the event, the final margin of 26 points improving on the 52-point difference (181.5-129.5) in 2007.