Even with 20 metres left, though, it looked as if she might just miss out but she came through to add the title to the women’s 4x100m freestyle gold she won on the opening day and the silvers she in the 200m freestyle and 4×200m relay.
“Shocking, it was bad, the worst ever,” smiled O’Callaghan, reflecting on her familiar pre-race nerves.
“I was panicking in warm-up, I had a little bit of a cramp in my leg.
“I was just feeling dizzy, I just felt out of it in warm-up and I started to panic a little.”
Once in the water, though, she proved nerveless as she became the fifth Australian woman to win the blue riband event after Jodie Henry, Libby Trickett and sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell, once again demonstrating the depth of the nation’s female freestyling talent.
“It’s certainly weird at the moment to think that I’m a world champion,” said O’Callaghan.
I’m so proud of it, it’s all about experience for me and I wasn’t expecting that at all.”
Stubblety-Cook swam an equally extraordinary race to dominate the 200m breaststroke.
He was last after 50 metres and 100 metres, before rousing himself to get to third at the 150m mark before his long, slow stroke powered him away over the final length to win almost as he liked in 2:07.07.
That was way down on the world record 2:05.95 he’d set in Adelaide at the national championships a month ago but the 23-year-old reckoned that “it as always just the game plan just to race tonight”.
The 23-year-old finished 1.31secs ahead of joint silver medallists, Japan’s Yu Hanaguruma and Sweden’s Erik Persson (2:08.38)
Bendigo’s Strauch earned the Aussies’ sixth silver of the championships in the equivalent women’s event, and was even in the hunt for the gold until American Lilly King forged away over the last 25 metres.
Strauch clocked 2:23.04 as King, coming back from a COVID break, won in 2:22.41.
The Aussie had actually gone faster than that in the semis, clocking 2:22.22 as the quickest qualifier.