Kyle Lee overcame an 18-second deficit on the final leg of the mixed 4x800-meter open water relay to give Australia the lead over the United States after Day 1 of the 2022 Duel in the Pool.
The Americans and the Aussies used opposite strategies in the opening race of the three-day event, which took place Friday at Bondi Beach in Sydney. The U.S. used its two men's swimmers at the front of the relay, while the Australians led with their women's swimmers.
- Australia: Chelsea Gubecka, Kareena Lee, Kai Edwards, Kyle Lee
- United States: Charlie Clark, David Johnston, Bella Sims, Tylor Mathieu
It set the stage for an entertaining finish as Lee trimmed the Americans' advantage to nine seconds at the 400-meter mark and then surged ahead inside the final 20 meters for the win, per Martin Pegan of the Australian Associated Press.
"My team put me in a very good position," Lee said. "I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get them, but I just tried to do my best and catch them. It was a pretty close finish. Once I went past Tylor I could see that she was still at my feet so I knew I couldn't back off at the end."
Based on the event's scoring rules, Australia will carry an 8-6 lead into Day 2 as the competition shifts indoors to the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.
The United States won each of the first seven editions of the Duel in the Pool, which debuted in 2003. After three iterations of the U.S. vs. Australia, the event shifted to a U.S. vs. Europe theme before going on hiatus following the 2015 competition.
Clark, a college junior who competes on the Ohio State men's swimming team, remembers attending that event seven years ago:
"It was so fun getting to swim a race in such an iconic place like Bondi Beach. It is honestly a dream come true to do this. It's been an amazing opportunity to represent Team USA.
"I went to the last Duel in the Pool they had in 2015 in Indianapolis, and I watched. It was two weeks before our middle school championship and I wanted to get some motivation. So, to be able to compete for Team USA the next time they have Duel in the Pool, it's like what I said before, a dream come true."
After the single event on Day 1, there are 20 races on Saturday's schedule, beginning with the mixed 4x100-meter medley relay.
A total of 40 events will take place before the competition wraps up Sunday.