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4 days, 31 medals: 'Fabulous' swim stars destroy Pan-Ams

Posted: 12-Jul-2019 by PanAm Games 2019

Four days. 31 medals. One incredible Aussie swim team.

Thursday brought the end of the swimming program at the Maccabi Pan-American Games – Australia were hoping it would never come.

From the word go, the Aussies dominated in the pool, racking up medals at a scintillating rate, and the final day of the meet was no different.

“Yesterday was one of my best days holding a stopwatch, and I think today outdid it,” said coach Anthony Goodridge.

The swim squad added another nine medals to an already ridiculous tally, leaving their final contribution at a ridiculous 31.


Australia's Junior swimmers pose with their medal haul

At time of writing, they represent 88 per cent of the Australia’s overall medal total.

Every single member of the group will leave Mexico with a medal after blitzing the competition across a range of events and age groups. Versatile young gun Jade Berson could struggle to pass the luggage weight limit on the way home, leading the charge with an incredible seven medals to her name.

The 16-year-old added yet another individual prize to her haul on Thursday, finishing second in the 200m backstroke. And in the following hours, several her teammates also found themselves up on the podium.

There was a good news story in the Junior boys 400m freestyle, as Australia nabbed silver and bronze in the same race! Training partners Ben Potash (2nd) and Noam Antonir (3rd) – who impressively came from lane eight to land his medal - stormed home to net their first individual medals of the meet, made all the more special by doing so together.

Potash’s mum Stacey said their achievement was the culmination of ‘hundreds of hours of hard work and early mornings,’ while the pair were chuffed to see the fruits of their labour.

“It’s awesome,” Antonir said.

“Really good to see not just my hard work or his hard work but both of us. We train together, we take times off each other, and it’s just awesome to see both of our effort coming together.”


Training partners Ben Potash and (L) Noam Antonir (R) won medals in the same race

“When you get to the end in individuals, you look up at that wall and you see that you’ve placed, it’s the greatest feeling in the whole world. You have the biggest smile across your face.”

Potash joked the pair had ‘spent way too many hours together!’

But the rush was only getting started, with plenty more opportunities for our Aussie swimmers to land themselves even more accolades. Gabi Goodridge got in on the act once again, pipped for gold by the narrowest of margins in the 50m butterfly – taking her tally in individual to a remarkable four silver medals.

In the junior boys edition of the event, there was serious controversy. Zak Levine has been a revelation this week, and it looked as though the enormous 15-year-old was set to add another gold medal to his bloated collection. But controversy with the timing system created enormous drama on pool deck as coaches discussed the best course of action.

At one point, the gold was headed home with Levine. But a check of the manual times saw the Aussie relegated to silver – a result he was more than content with.

However, there was glory to come for Team Aus soon after in the race, with masters champ Barry Carp back in the pool for the fifth and final time. Predictably, Carp blitzed the competition once again to complete his set. Five races, five gold medals, just a freakish achievement.


Barry Carp (C) won FIVE gold medals for Australia at the Pan-Am Games

Meanwhile, Halli Klinger saved her best until last. The 17-year-old came out of nowhere to steal a bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke, as a stunning surge saw the Aussie touch out a rival in dramatic fashion. Nothing could have wiped the smile off her face.

But perhaps the biggest triumph of the day saw the Junior girls relay team finally get their hands-on gold. After silvers in both the 4x100m and 4x200m relays, they finally got the job done. Every single member of the team did their part, with fast splits swam across the board as Berson, Goodridge, Klinger and anchor Asia Carp became champions.

The Junior boys were next up, facing a colossal challenge in their hunt to emulate the fairer sex. For the first time in the meet, the USA were fielding their strongest possible team – leaving Levine, Potash, Noah Abeshouse and Antonir needing something seriously special to take the race out.

In the end, the Americans blew the rest away, storming home in a remarkable time as the Aussies cruised home for silver soon after. It brought an end to a simply ridiculous few days for Team Aus in the pool, with medals flowing like the current.

“It’s a really wonderful experience,” Goodridge said.

“In the pool, our kids did fabulously. They found it extremely difficult at the start of the week, the altitude really hit them, and I think some of the results at the start of the week reflect that. A number of our team had stomach problems during the week, we didn’t want to talk about it.


An exceptional swim meet comes to an end. What a haul...

“Yes, it affected results, but in the end, they raced. And it was particularly pleasing having one of our boys’ relays and one of our girls relays pick up gold. It’s fabulous for the kids. They deserve it. They did really really well.”

This swim team have been the outstanding force in Australia’s largest-ever team at the Pan-American Games, with their results the envy of the rest of their compatriots.

Their coach believes the secret lies in their attitude towards their craft.

“The results reflect the attitude and maturity that these kids have,” Goodridge said.

“They are great kids, and we’ve been hearing that from everyone. Members of our team management, members of the other teams, they keep coming up to me and saying ‘your kids are amazing.’

“And we’re very lucky, we’ve got amazing parents and amazing kids and it makes for a culture that is quite uniquely Australian. But at the same time, we’re humble but determined.”