Events: Women's 4x100m Freestyle Relay, women's 4x100m Medley Relay, women's 4x200m Freestyle Relay
Olympic History: Tokyo 2020 (x2 gold & bronze)
Highlights: Two gold medals and a bronze medal at Tokyo 2020. 2019 Junior Worlds
Club: St. Peters Western
Year Born: 2004
State Born: QLD
It came as no surprise when Mollie O’Callaghan was named as Swimming World’s Female Performer of the Year for 2022. One would have thought that two gold medals at her debut Olympics in Tokyo the year earlier might have sounded the alarm, but given that both were won as a heat swimmer in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays, they might perhaps have been disregarded.
But there was no way that 18-year-old O’Callaghan’s victory in the 100m freestyle at the world championships in Budapest could be ignored. Nor could her efforts in winning the same event at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, especially considering she showed the way home to the woman she describes as “her idol”, Australia’s greatest ever Olympian, Emma McKeon.
She became the fifth Australian to win the world and Commonwealth 10m freestyle double – joining Jodie Henry, Libby Trickett and the Campbell sisters, Cate and Bronte. Her world number one ranking time of 52.49sec has further bolstered Australia’s hopes of claiming a fourth straight 4x100m freestyle relay title at Paris 2024, although this event is shaping as one of the hottest of the Games.
Mollie also came to the fore with her efforts in the world record-breaking feats of the Australian 4x200m freestyle team at the Commonwealth Games and the world short course titles in Melbourne, while also causing eyebrows to raise appreciatively as she claimed silver behind Olympic champions Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown in the Birmingham 200m freestyle and the Melbourne 100m backstroke respectively.
Dean Boxall has been highly praised for his performances in coaching Titmus but he is gaining even further respect for his work with O’Callaghan, another quiet swimmer who lets her performances in the water speak for her.
Her versatility should come as no surprise considering she won every backstroke event at the 2020 Queensland titles, plus the 50m butterfly for good measure.
But it was her impressive feat at the 2021 Olympic trials in Adelaide that saw the then 17-year-old tie Meg Harris for fifth spot in the 200m freestyle final – both girls going half a second under the Olympic qualifying time – that first indicated her true qualities.