Australia could go without a gold medal in a swimming event at the world championships for the first time since 1986 after failing to even register a podium finish on day six in Budapest.
Bronte Campbell was unable to defend her women’s 100 metres freestyle title, finishing second last in the blue riband event, claimed by Olympic champion Simone Manuel of the United States.
Emma McKeon, who has collected five medals in Budapest, finished eighth in the final.
Campbell became the third Australian in Budapest to have their title defence sabotaged, while in other events the young men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team of Clyde Lewis, Mack Horton, Alex Graham and Jack Cartwright finished fourth in their final.
The setbacks continued when fastest qualifier Taylor McKeown went out hard early only to fade to seventh in the women’s 200m breaststroke final and Cameron McEvoy fell short of qualifying for the men’s 50m freestyle decider by just 0.04 of a second.
Australia is now 12th on the medal tally with two days remaining at the world championships, having claimed five silver and two bronze.
Defending world champion Emily Seebohm, however, may be the saviour to end Australia’s gold drought at the Duna Arena in the 200m backstroke.
Seebohm, an 11-year team veteran, equalled her own national record to be the fastest qualifier for the final.
She clocked 2:05.81, the same time that earned her 200m gold at the 2015 world titles in Kazan.
Kaylee McKeown will join Seebohm in the final after posting a personal best to hit the wall in 2:07.40 and progress as the sixth-fastest qualifier.
Seebohm may be Australia’s best chance of striking gold in Hungary but she was not feeling any pressure.
“I got a world title in 2015 so it’s not like I have the pressure to win a second,” she said.
“I am just going out there to enjoy it.”
Seebohm looked comfortable topping the 200m semi-finals ahead of 100m backstroke…