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Proud mum overcome after swimmer’s crippling battle

As Lani Pallister’s mum was interviewed in the crowd moments after the Australian’s gold-medal triumph at the FINA World Swimming Championships on Tuesday night, her voice began to tremble and she fought off tears.

But this wasn’t just any case of a proud parent delighted with their child’s sporting heroics.

Janelle Pallister, a former Olympic swimmer and Commonwealth Games gold medalist, had seen her daughter fight back from heart surgery and an eating disorder to clinch a world title.

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The 20-year-old Pallister seized gold in the women’s 400m freestyle at the world short-course meet in Melbourne.

Yet in 2021, her budding career had been derailed by a diagnosis of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which can cause an irregular or elevated heartbeat, and a crippling obsession with body image.

The Sunshine Coast product told The Sydney Morning Herald in May that she would look at Australian swimming ace Ariarne Titmus and think, ‘Wow, I wish I looked like that’.”

Pallister’s mum, Janelle, has been paramount to her comeback, shepherding the rising star in her roles as mother and co-coach.

“I actually asked her to sort of just have a good think about it (quitting swimming) because it wasn’t really worth the pain that she was going through,” Janelle told Nine.

“She was determined to come back and she’s come back with a vengeance.

“All we said to her was, ‘Lani, just be you. Just get out there and be you’.”

The FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) will be broadcast exclusively live and free on Nine and 9Now from December 13-18.

Pallister clocked 3:55.04 in the 400m freestyle final to trump New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather (3:56.00) and the USA’s Leah Smith (3:59.78).

Aussie young gun wins 400m world title

Pallister, who’s now eyeing the 800m and 1500m freestyle at the short-course meet, is competing on a senior Australian team for the third time, having contested this year’s World Championships in Budapest and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“Lani has been developing,” said Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe on Nine’s Today.

“Lani Pallister’s one of the up-and-coming swimmers that we’ve been waiting for … she’s doing exceedingly well and she’s done it for the first time in front of a home crowd.”

Pallister rocketed home over the final 100 meters, closing in 58.57 seconds.

“I don’t normally use my legs so it was kind of an odd feeling having them still kind of there by the end of the race,” Pallister said in a pool-side interview with Nine.

Thorpe hails ‘history-making moment’

“I knew it was going to be tough, and I’ve spoken to Bohly (co-coach Michael Bohl) about it pretty much all day, knowing that I needed to bring them in. I texted my mum and said, ‘Watch for them on the last lap’, because it’s kind of an unusual occurrence.

“But super excited to be here.”

She said it was a “dream come true” to win the gold medal.

“Erika was right with my neck and neck the whole way,” Pallister said.

“It’s a pretty cool opportunity being on a pool deck.

“Super excited for the rest of the week.”

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