Australian Jessica Ashwood has broken the Australian Record in the women’s 1500 free at the country’s Grand Prix #2 in Townsville on Friday, swimming a 15:56.86.
That makes her the first Australian woman ever under 16 minutes; the old record was 16:01.53, belonging to Melissa Gorman from 2010.
Ashwood trains under Vince Raleigh in Brisbane, and her previous best time in the event was just 16:13.
Ashwood becomes just the 16th woman ever under 16 minutes in this non-Olympic distance event, though the Oceanic continental record belongs to New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle (15:44.71) – one of the few in that category that’s not in Aussie hands.
The 22-year old is on the Australian World Championships team for this summer in the 400 and 800 meter freestyles, though Australia hasn’t formally named their entrants for the women’s 1500 free. Ashwood, after her performance on Friday, should be given the first crack at that race.
Medal chances in this 1500 are hard to peg down; in 2013, Katie Ledecky, Lauren Boyle, and Lotte Friis were well ahead of the crowd in this event, with all three going better than 15:45 at Worlds. In 2014, however, only Ledecky was able to repeat that speed, and one of the few capable of bridging the gap, Mireia Belmonte, is struggling through injury.
That leaves Ashwood stuck in some limbo where she’d have to drop another 12 or so seconds to really feel capable of taking a medal from the world’s best, but also where perhaps a 15:56 would be good enough even for silver.
The 1500 free for women at the World Championships takes place on the 3rd day of swimming competition, just in between the 400 and 800.