Erika Fairweather sent a buzz around the New Zealand swimming camp tonight when she swam the race of her life to qualify for the 400m freestyle final. And not only to qualify, but to qualify fourth!

Fairweather, 17, chopped an incredible four seconds off her personal best to record 4min 02.28s. It was the sort of effort that reminded New Zealand swim fans of 15-year-old Rebecca Perrott’s record-breaking swim in the Olympic 400m freestyle heats in Montreal in 1976.

Fairweather’s sensational swim broke Lauren Boyle’s New Zealand record and suddenly placed the Dunedin teenager among the elite of women’s freestyle swimmers.

In the final she will be up against the legendary American Kathleen Ledecky, who was the fastest qualifier with 4min 00.45s, and Australian Ariarne Titmus, who won Fairweather’s heat in 4min 01.66, as well as 14-year-old Canadian sensation Summer McIntosh and American Paige Madden.

Fairweather was almost speechless afterwards.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “That was unreal. I just wanted to step up and show everyone that I’ve got it in me. I had to show my courage to go out there and swim like that against the top in the world, but I just can’t believe that happened.

“I never believed I’d be in the Olympic final, let alone in the lane I’ll be in.”

The other New Zealand swimmer in action  was Ali Galyer, who swam 1min 02.65s in her 100m backstroke heat, which placed her 33rd overall of the 41 starters.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games Erika Fairweather Swimming
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