On her 25th birthday, Lauren Boyle has become 800m world champion at the short course championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
After finishing fourth in the long course 800m final at this year's Olympic Games in London, the Auckland freestyler sliced seven seconds off her previous best to break through onto the senior world podium - becoming only the second New Zealander to take gold from the world short course championships after Moss Burmester in 2008.
Boyle said the result solidifies a very pleasing year so far.
"I'm so stoked to be a world champion. As far as birthday presents go, it's quite a nice one," Boyle told Fairfax Media from Istanbul.
"I'm very happy with how that race went. It was much faster than my best short course time.
"It's been an incredible year and I'm really happy that I decided to come to this competition after the Olympics. I'm so happy with 2012 and so excited for 2013.
"I didn't have too many expectations coming in to this meet, it was all about doing a best time and seeing where that would take me because it's difficult to know what the level of competition you will face right after an Olympic Games."
The field was missing the three swimmers who beat Boyle in London, with Olympic gold medallist Katie Ledecky, Spaniard Mireia Belmonnte Garcia and British swimmer Rebecca Adlington all absent.
Boyle returns to the pool tonight (NZT) for the 400m heats with the final set for tomorrow morning (NZT).
"I'm excited but I'm definitely still focussed for tomorrow morning and the 400m. It's not until noon, so I won't have to wake up too early," she said.
Boyle won the race in a time of Boyle touched home in 8:08.62 - over two seconds clear of Danish star Lotte Friis (8:10.99), who Boyle also beat in London while American Chloe Sutton (8:15.53) was third seven seconds behind the Kiwi.
Boyle's coach, Mark Regan, told his swimmer he was not surprised by the result.
"Mark's really pleased for me but he said after the race he's not surprised. He told me he truly believed I could win."
Boyle will also compete in the 200m freestyle on the final day of the meet on Monday (NZT).