The world is in awe of the Australian swimming team after an “unreal” performance in the pool that almost nobody saw coming.

Australia has broken the world record in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay, stunning the world in the process.

Missing several of the team’s biggest stars, Kyle Chalmers, Jack Cartwright, Madison Wilson and Mollie O’Callaghan set the Budapest pool on fire to win the event by more than 1.3 seconds clear of Canada.

Chalmers described it as “unreal” and “insane”.

It was Chalmers’ second leg that blew the competition away before veteran Wilson and rising superstar O’Callaghan brought the team home.

Their time of 3min 19.38sec beat the record set by the United States in last World Championships in 2019 by 0.02sec. Canada were second, the Americans third. It is the first time America has been beaten in the event.

The event was only added to the world championships for the first time in 2015.

“It’s insane … I think we were always going to be hard to beat,” said Chalmers.

The Olympic champion appeared to take a shot at his critics after he was criticised for failing to reach the semi-finals of the 100m butterfly.

In freestyle, he remains the king.

“I dare anyone to say that it’s a flop or that I’m undeserving of this spot,” Chalmers said.

“I do my thing for the relay. It’s great to win, great to get a world record, and it’s all I can ask for.”

While Chalmers thought his team was always going to win, Wilson was staggered.

“It’s pretty unexpected,” Wilson said.

“I don’t think there was any mention or any expectation or even a thought of being able to break that. To do that and see that at the end was unbelievable and a real surprise for us.”

Australia was missing sprint queens Cate Campbell and Emma McKeon, who both skipped the world championships.

Australian Kaylee McKeown also won the women’s 200m backstroke for a first world title to go with three Olympic golds.

McKeown chased American Phoebe Bacon down in the last lap to win at the touch by just 0.04sec.

“Everything turned out positively in the end,” said McKeown

Meanwhile, Katie Ledecky won a record-breaking fifth straight 800m world title on Friday, just over an hour after Sarah Sjostrom surged to her fourth consecutive victory in the women’s 50m butterfly.

Local hero Kristof Milak sparked delirium in the Duna Arena in Budapest when he grabbed the gold medal in the 100m butterfly, his second of the week.

Ben Proud claimed Britain’s first gold of the championships as he grabbed victory in the 50m freestyle.

Ledecky led throughout the 800m as she took her tally of World Championship medals to 22, a record for a woman.

She finished in 8min 8.04sec to beat Australian Kiah Melverton by 10.73sec and Italian Simona Quadarella by 10.96sec.

“Year after year it’s really hard work,” said the 25-year-old American who won her first major title in the 2012 Olympics.

“In London I won my first gold 10 years ago, back then they said I was a one-hit wonder, and here we are, 10 years later and I have another gold.

“I’m so excited for the future as well. This was only my seventh fastest time in the last couple of years but after a long week the gold counts.

“Everyone’s pushing me and I’m working on my stroke and these World Championships were tremendously exciting for me.”

Sjostrom won her race in 24.95sec to edge Frenchwoman Melanie Henique by 0.36sec with China’s Zhang Yufei third at 0.37.

“I had a lot of pressure on myself because of my past successes,” said Sjostrom. Sjostrom has 19 world championship medals, three behind Ledecky and is also chasing Michael Phelps’ record of 10 World Championship butterfly medals set between 2001 and 2011. She has nine.

“Yes, I can do it,” she said.

“It feels unreal that I’ve been at this level for so long. I won my first title in 2009, Michael Phelps was still swimming at that time and I was really looking up to him.” Sjostrom fell on ice in Sweden in February 2021 and broke her elbow, but still won a silver in the Tokyo Olympics last July.

“It feels amazing to be here, to still be around and still be winning medals. It is not something I can take for granted.”

Milak, who had already won the 200m butterfly title, delighted the home crowd at what he calls “my pool” as he finally won gold in the 100m. Caeleb Dressel, the reigning world and Olympic champion, pulled out of the competition on Wednesday.

“I missed him for sure, as you know I love good races, although this was also one,” said Milak.

Milak won in 50.14sec, a comfortable 0.80sec ahead of Naoki Mizunuma of Japan, with Canadian Joshua Liendo a further three hundredths of a second back in third.

“I’m so proud to be Hungarian and I’m overjoyed that here in the arena 4,000 people were cheering for me,” said Milak.

“I hope, in front of the TVs and all around the world, all 15 million Magyars gave me their support.

“I am so tired now, I can hardly wait for a rest.” In another event where Dressel was the reigning champion, Proud exploded from the blocks and held on to win in a time of 21.32.

American Michael Andrew was second on 21.41. Frenchman Maxime Grousset grabbed third.

“Great race, great field, great fans and great job!,” said Proud.

— with AFP

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