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Siobhan Haughey won the 400 metres freestyle at the Fina World Cup in Berlin. Photo: Handout

Look what you made me do: Siobhan Haughey wins Fina World Cup gold, and credits Taylor Swift

  • Hongkonger wins 400m freestyle in Berlin, in her first international meet in 10 months after missing several competitions through injury
  • Haughey says she prepared by listening to Swift’s new album Midnights, released hours earlier, in its entirety
Siobhan Haughey shone on her return to the international stage by winning the 400 metres freestyle with a new Hong Kong record at the Fina World Cup in Berlin.
The double Olympic silver medallist had not swum at this level since last December but looked in strong form on Friday as she took her first individual World Cup gold – and later said listening to Taylor Swift’s new album had been the ideal preparation.

The 24-year-old placed second at the first four turns, 0.01 seconds behind Czech swimmer Barbora Seemanova, before moving into first after 125m and opening up a significant advantage after halfway.

By the three-quarter mark she was nearly three seconds ahead, and she maintained her momentum to touch the wall in three minutes, 56.52 seconds – which was 0.54 seconds faster than her previous Hong Kong best, set in the International Swimming League last November.

Siobhan Haughey (centre) is interviewed at the poolside after her 400m victory. Photo: Handout

Seemanova finished second in a national record of 4:00.15, while Isabel Gose of Germany, the European champion at the distance, was third in 4:00.19.

The gold medal was only Hong Kong’s second ever by a woman, after Sze Hang-yu won the 100m individual medley in Doha in 2011. Haughey had earned a mixed 4x50m freestyle relay gold in the 2014 World Cup meet hosted by Hong Kong.

This was also Haughey’s first significant title over 400m, rather than 200m or 100m.

“I feel really great after this race,” Haughey said at poolside in Berlin. “I wasn’t really sure where I was at – this is my first international competition in 10 months, so I just want to see where I’m at right now.

“I’m hoping that every race I’ll get better so that I’ll be ready at the end of the year for the short-course worlds – I’m really excited for it.”

The Hongkonger later said Swift’s new album Midnights, released hours earlier on Friday, had played a small part.

She posted on Instagram after the race: “When your queen drops an album on your race day, so you listen to the full album as a pre-race routine, and end up going a best time.”

At those World Championships, in Melbourne in December, Haughey will be aiming to defend her titles in the 100m and 200m freestyle, and improve on 2021’s third place in the 400m.

The freestyle specialist had missed several competitions since last year’s short-course worlds in Abu Dhabi. An ankle injury sustained in May in a poolside fall during a training session forced her to withdraw from two major long-course events, the Mare Nostrum Tour and the long-course World Championships, in the weeks that followed.

Before Berlin, she swam in the long-course Hong Kong Open Championships in August and the short-course Age Group Time Trial in September, when she smashed three local records. That was followed by a four-week high-altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada, Spain.

Haughey had no time to bask in the glory of her 400m triumph in Berlin, with further races to prepare for in the 200m and then 100m free, but it had been a positive start to her meet.

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“Her performance was superb, proving that she had overcome her injury and showing the benefits of her high-altitude training,” Hong Kong head coach Chen Jianhong said.

“We have always appreciated her fighting attitude and approach to swimming, and she is a role model for Hong Kong swimmers.”

Haughey won her heat when the 200m – in which she holds the short-course world record as well as being reigning world champion – got under way on Saturday.

She came home in 1:56.22, almost six seconds slower than her world best, in qualifying fifth fastest overall. Madison Wilson of Australia and Marrit Steenbergen of the Netherlands were first and second fastest in 1:55.01 and 1:55.14 respectively.