It was, as expected, a race too far.
Dunedin schoolgirl Erika Fairweather finished eighth and last in the Olympic 400m freestyle final, a race won by Australian Ariarne Titmus over the legendary American Katie Ledecky.
Fairweather couldn’t back up her brilliant heat performance and was struggling in the final from the outset.
Fairweather’s time in the final was about six seconds slower than her brilliant heat time. She said it “wasn’t my best performance” but she wouldn’t let it define her Games experience.
Fairweather had broken Lauren Boyle’s New Zealand record to qualify fourth fastest, as she attempted to break New Zealand’s 25-year Olympic swimming medal drought.
Erika Fairweather of Team New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images.
She was also attempting to become just the second New Zealand woman to win an Olympic medal, following the late Jean Hurring (nee Stewart) who won the 100m backstroke bronze at Helsinki in 1952.
Like Stewart, Fairweather – the 2019 world junior 200m champion – is from Dunedin. The 17-year-old Fairweather was ranked 15th in the Tokyo 400m backstroke field and smashed her previous best by four seconds to finish second in her heat and break the mark set by world class freestyler Boyle.
Fairweather lines up in the heats of the 200m freestyle, her preferred distance, tonight.