Bring on the Paris Olympics.
That’s the feeling from Australia and USA after Cate Campbell lit a fuse under the Americans, reigniting swimming’s fiercest rivalry and sparking a war of words not seen since the days of the 2000 Olympics.
The bad blood started when the USA were awarded team of the meet at last week’s World Swimming Championships, despite Australia finished with a record-equalling 13 gold medals to America’s seven.
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It was just the second time since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics Australia has beaten the United States in the medal tally of a major international meet, and the first since 2001, coincidentally when the world championships were last held in Fukuoka, Japan.
The USA won more silver and bronze, finishing with a total medal haul of 38 to Australia’s 25.
Under World Aquatics’ scoring system, that was enough to award America the award for the best team of the world championships in a decision that incensed Australians.
American TV network NBC also decided to wave the white flag and change their graphics to use the total medal count, instead of the usual tally of the number of gold medals — which put the USA ahead of Australia.
Campbell then blew up the controversy on the Today Show, calling the Americans “sore losers” and slamming the American team’s ritual of ringing a cowbell when each of their swimmers come out to race.
“I mean Australia coming out on top of the world is one thing, but it is just so much sweeter beating America,” the four-time Olympian said.
“The first night of competition, we did not have to hear ‘Star Spangled Banner’ ring out through the stadium. I cannot tell you how happy that made me.
“If I hear that song again it will be too soon.
“Bring on Paris. That’s all I have to say to the US. Stop being sore losers.”
It’s turned into a perfect clash between American exceptionalism and Australia’s determination to rail against the USA’s unashamed patriotism.
And it’s safe to say Campbell’s comments didn’t go down too well in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Star American breaststroker Lilly King tweeted: “Sorry we aren’t so uptight we can’t cheer for our teammates as they walkout for events. See you in Paris.”
King is one of team USA’s most outspoken swimmers and famously predicted the American women would win every single individual swimming event at the Tokyo Olympics. Spoiler alert, they did not.
US commentators said Campbell’s comments will only serve as motivation for the Americans to beat the Aussies in the pool at next year’s Paris Olympics.
Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde tweeted the clip of Campbell teeing off, adding: “Eighty seconds of training fuel for USA Swimming heading toward Paris in ‘24.”
Olympic gold medallist turned NBC swimming pundit Rowdy Gaines tweeted: “360 days. I can’t wait. The rivalry continues.”
Swimming commentator Kyle Sockwell said on his YouTube channel Campbell’s cowbell comment won’t go down with the Americans: “I think that’s done it. I think we’re off.”
He added the Campbell-King beef was exactly what swimming needs, for a sport desperate for relevancy outside the Olympics.
“My overall thought is trash talk is completely OK,” Sockwell said
“I think it’s a good thing for the sport. For some reason in swimming, we’ve decided to be the only sport an the planet that makes people hide their emotions in favour of being a good sport on camera.
“This is awesome. Lilly King is awesome. Cate Campbell is awesome. This is good for the sport.
“What this proves in my eyes is we’re leaving a lot on the table when it comes to marketability for the sport of swimming.”
As for the contentious decision to name American team of the meet, Sockwell said: “Swimming is getting a taste of what it’s like to be a UFC fan and watch a UFC decision.”