Campbell set for sister battle
Asked if she and sibling Bronte are swimming’s answer to tennis’ superstar Williams sisters, Australia’s Cate Campbell laughed.
Then the reigning world 100m freestyle champion realised the ramifications.
“Yeah, but I am hoping there won’t be a Serena situation where I am leapfrogged by the younger sister,” she said.
Yet the stage is set for just that at the world swimming championships in Kazan, Russia, with the blue riband women’s 100m final to be contest on Friday (Saturday morning AEST).
Cate Campbell is unbeaten over 100m since late 2012.
However, alarm bells are ringing after Bronte inspired Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay gold on the world championships opening night with the second-fastest split in history (51.77 seconds).
Only Cate has gone faster, back at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Bronte sounded her intentions way back at April’s national championships in Sydney when she upstaged her famous sister for the first time by claiming the 50m freestyle title.
Bronte also qualified fastest for the national 100m final there before normal service resumed with her Cate triumphant in the medal race.
But the jury is out on whether history will repeat in Kazan.
Cate appears more vulnerable than usual, having undergone shoulder surgery last August.
A slow recovery meant she only had a three-month preparation for the Sydney meet.
Then there’s the weight of history.
Only three Australian women have defended a world title in the pool – Libby Trickett, Leisel Jones and Jessicah Schipper.
And no one has sealed back-to-back women’s world 100m freestyle gold since East Germany’s Kornelia Ender in 1975 during their controversial regime.
Apart from her sister, training partner and housemate Bronte, Campbell is also expected to be kept honest by Holland’s Femke Heemskerk (equal No.1 fastest of 2015 with Cate 52.69) and Swede Sarah Sjostrom (No.3 ranked, 52.97).
Then there’s resurgent Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo.
Usually carefree, Cate admitted her rivals’ threat was weighing in the back of her mind.
“I try not to think who is going to be toughest to beat, for me it’s about focusing on myself,” she said.
“But undoubtedly there is an incredibly tough field as much as I try to ignore them, they are always nagging at the back of the mind.”