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American broadcasters change World Championships medal tally to show America on top, despite less gold medals than Australia, Mollie O’Callaghan dominates in Fukuoka

The Americans have shown they can’t handle losing after an eagle-eyed sportswriter noticed a peculiar change to the way the medal tally at this week’s 2023 Aquatics World Championships in Fukuoka was being reported on.

With the event being one of world swimming’s premier events and serving as the primary qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics, it is hugely important as a gauge of where nations are at ahead of Olympic years.

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With the Australian swim team, the Dolphins, in the midst of a historic golden generation of talent, including the record-breaking likes of Mollie O’Callaghan, Ariane Titmus and the resurgence of experienced male talent like Cameron McEvoy, the benchmark Americans have had a run for their money in Japan this week.

Amid the Dolphins’ dominating performance in the pool, swimming journalist Braden Keith noticed an interesting shift in the coverage of the Championships by America’s broadcaster of the event NBC.

The American graphic appeared to show the medal tally in order of total medals, rather than the traditional ordering of gold-silver-bronze, which kept Team USA on top of the tally, rather than the Australians.

Keith noted that NBC had begun the event using the traditional ordering, but then switched to total medals when it became apparent that the Americans kept losing out to the Australians.

Braden Keith posted this photo to Twitter of the NBC/Peacock medal tally for the 2023 World Aquatics championships in Fukuoka. Photo: Twitter
Braden Keith posted this photo to Twitter of the NBC/Peacock medal tally for the 2023 World Aquatics championships in Fukuoka. Photo: TwitterSource: Supplied

The Australians had 10 gold medals at the end of day six of the swimming events, with the Americans on three.

Americans have missed out on gold medals to Aussies in Fukuoka in ten different events so far across both men’s and women’s disciplines, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Today, NBC and USA Swimming officially waved the white flag at the end of finals by changing their medals table graphic to a total medals sort,” Keith wrote on Twitter with a photo of the tally.

“That wasn’t their approach at the beginning of the meet. The total medal sort bothers me far less than the “using whichever sort we think we’re going to win does.

“Sports aren’t fun if the same team wins all the time. I understand that people love the home country ‘winning’, but there’s room for a redemption story once in a while too.

“Bigger question is how are the tables being sorted behind closed doors? Is the result going to be brushed away or addressed and learned from?”

Fans were scathing of the cheeky move from American broadcasters, with Melbourne artist Callum Shaw saying “even when (the Americans) are not number one, they can confidently rely on the fact that most of their population isn’t data literate.”

The Australian relay teams have dominated in Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Another fan noted that the Americans have traditionally dominated swimming at the Olympics, topping the medal tally at every single Olympics dating back to 1988.

America has not finished outside the top two in the swimming medal tally since 1936, excluding the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games.

Fans have to look back to the 1956 Melbourne Games to find the only time Australia has ever topped the Olympic tally.

Despite this, fans are quietly optimistic, with freestyler Cameron McEvoy hailing the dawning of a new era.

Australian swimmers have claimed ten golds and broken four world records in five days of competition so far in Japan, leaving nearest rivals China and the United States trailing in their wake.

McEvoy has been part of the Australian team since the 2012 London Olympics and he said this year’s “exceptional” vintage was on a par with the best the country had ever produced.

“I had heard a lot about the golden era, the early 2000s, the late 90s,” said McEvoy, who qualified fastest from the men’s 50m freestyle heats in a time of 21.35sec.

“I didn’t think I would be a part of a team that would replicate that so soon.

O’Callaghan stands on the brink of history in Fukuoka. (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP)Source: AFP

Ariarne Titmus started things off for the Australians by winning the women’s 400m freestyle in world record time on the competition’s opening night.

Mollie O’Callaghan did the same in the 200m freestyle, while the Australian women’s relay team also set world records in the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle.

McEvoy said Australia’s showing in Fukuoka “bodes pretty well for longevity”. “Now, all of a sudden, not only do we have a whole team doing really well, there’s a few people doing absolute insane times, at a young age too,” he said.

McEvoy is enjoying a career resurgence after taking a break from swimming for all of 2022.

He clocked the two fastest 50m freestyle times of the year at the Australian trials last month.

He also led the morning heats in Fukuoka, ahead of Szebasztian Szabo on 21.67 and France’s Florent Manaudou on 21.72.

McEvoy said he believes he is “in a great spot to snag a medal”, after exiting in the 50m butterfly heats earlier in the week.

“I wanted to come out this morning, do a solid time and see where I’m at,” he said.

“The nature of the 50 is really how well you can execute it.”

Short course specialist O’Callaghan has called it “a weird feeling” to become the first woman ever to complete a 100m-200m freestyle double at swimming’s world championships, defending her 100m title.

O’Callaghan said she “came into this week just wanting to have fun” but she will end it as a history-maker with two individual world titles to her name.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s such a weird feeling,” she said.

“I didn’t even know that no woman had done that and to be the first is just incredible.

“There are no words to explain it — I’m just so thrilled,” she added.

Ian Thorpe holds the record for the most golds by an Australian at a World Championships with his legendary haul in Fukuoka 22 years ago.Source: News Limited

It was O’Callaghan’s fourth gold of the competition, having also been part of Australia’s title-winning women’s 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relay teams.

Both of those titles were won in world record times.

O’Callaghan said that her teammates had made the experience “so much easier”.

“Going into previous meets, I was just so nervous all the time and worrying,” she said.

“This is the first time that I’ve actually felt quite calm and just been enjoying every little bit.”

O’Callaghan stands on the brink of history, still possibly to feature in two more relays, the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay and the women’s 4x100m medley relay.

Should the Australians bring home gold in both those events, O’Callaghan would best Libby Trickett’s 2007 record for the most gold medals at a World Championships by an Australian woman, and come level with Ian Thorpe’s legendary 2001 Australian record haul of six golds, also in Fukuoka.

– with AFP

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