Missing out on a sixth gold medal for the swim team, but still managing to break their own world record, Australia’s 4×200-metre women’s relay team remain “stoked”.
Australia’s finals team, Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon, Madi Wilson and Leah Neale started strong but finished with a bronze medal on Thursday.
Australia was so confident in their status as the favourite for gold that they rolled the entire team for Thursday’s final after qualifying on Wednesday night.
The heat line-up – Mollie O’Callaghan, Meg Harris, Brianna Throssell and Tamsin Cook – will all receive medals.
Titmus told the Seven Network she was pleased they came in under Australia’s previous world record, but felt she could have “done a bit more”.
But the Tasmanian was ultimately happy to again make the podium, a sentiment echoed by her teammates.
“We all put in our 100 per cent effort”, McKeon added.
About 95 minutes before the relay, McKeon qualified fastest for the individual 100-metre final and is also a chance for more gold in the medley and mixed relays to come.
Wilson said it was “so special to be on the podium” while Neale said she “couldn’t be prouder”.
“It was pretty crazy. But I’m stoked to come away with the bronze with these girls plus the four girls who did the heat,” Neale said.
#Bronze for the @DolphinsAUS Women's 4x200m Freestyle Relay team of Ariarne Titmus, @emma_mckeon, @leah_neale1 and @MadiWilson in Australian Record and Oceania Record time (7:41.29)! 🥉#TokyoTogether #swimming pic.twitter.com/x1jOerjk7G
— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) July 29, 2021
First off the blocks, dual-gold-medalist Ariarne Titmus powered through the water with hopes of becoming the 8th Australian Olympian to win three gold medals at the Olympic Games.
She made good time, passing over to Emma McKeon who pulled Australia into the lead.
But the Chinese were unrelenting, regaining first place at the halfway mark with Maddie Wilson fighting hard to bring Australia back in front.
With nothing between China and Australia, the US was still in third place but nipping at Australia’s heels.
But USA’s Katie Ledecky just kept coming, hunting Australia down and pushing Australia’s Leah Neale back into third place with just 50 metres to go.
The Chinese triumphed in seven minutes 40.33 seconds – breaking the previous world record of 7:41.50 set by Australia at the 2019 world championships.
The United States (7:40.73) took the silver medal ahead of Australia’s bronze (7:41.29).
It meant a third medal each for Titmus and McKeon. Titmus won two golds in the 200-metre and 400-metre freestyle events and McKeon won gold in the 4×100-metre freestyle and bronze in the 100-metre butterfly.
Chalmers takes silver by a nail
Australian swimmer Kyle Chalmers is lamenting a mere 60 milliseconds after taking the silver medal in the 100-metre freestyle.
Chalmers fell just a finger-nail short of defending his Olympic title.
“It’s bitter-sweet,” Chalmers told the Seven Network.
“To get second is amazing, to back it up after gold in Rio … but to be so close, it does hit home a little bit.”
The South Australian was 0.06 seconds behind American Caleb Dressel, who won in 47.02 seconds, with Russia’s Kliment Kolisnikov (47.44) third.
Chalmers (47.08) unleashed his renowned late surge, coming from third at the turn to draw level with Dressel.
But in a desperate lunge, the American rallied to touch out the South Australian.
The first thing he did when the race ended was reach out to hug and congratulate his top competitor Dressel.
Chalmers, who had shoulder surgery last November, was seeking to become the first Australian to win the event at two Olympics.
“I have had 12 cortisone injections in my left shoulder, and the surgery … I have had ankle problems, three epidurals in my back, cortisone in my right shoulder,” he said.
“That’s just the physical side of things. Everyone has challenges.”
“But to stand up and go for an equal-best time in an Olympics final, when it counts the most with all the pressure and expectation on me, it is special.”
Jon Henricks (1956), John Devitt (1960) and Michael Wenden (1968) are Australia’s other 100-metre freestyle champions.
Only four swimmers in Olympic history have won back-to-back 100-metre freestyle titles.
Stubblety-Cook gets that gold
Earlier, Zac Stubblety-Cook declared himself “lost for words” after breaking a 60-plus-year drought for Australia in the 200-metres backstroke.
Stubblety-Cook was largely unheralded worldwide until producing the fastest time of the year at last month’s selection trials.
“You can only be an underdog once, right? I had that luxury,” said the 22-year-old.
“It was an experienced field but through the heat and semi it was quite exciting that I had a little bit more to give.
“I was happy enough to be here as this time last year we didn’t think the Games were going to happen.”
He made a smooth start in lane four, maintaining fifth position for the first 50 metres, he turned things around by quietly gaining pace up to the halfway mark.
In fourth place with 100 metres to swim, the momentum was building and he had pulled into third place with 50 metres to go.
Then the champion dug deep and made it count for a furious final stretch.
The Australian produced a stunning last lap to win in two minutes 06.38 seconds from Arno Kamminga (2:07.01) of the Netherlands and Finland’s Matti Mattson (2:07.13).
“Unbelievable. I’m lost for words,” Stubblety-Cook told Channel 7 after leaving the pool a champion.
Asked about his slow build and flurry to finish, the New South Welshman laughed.
“Made it entertaining right?” he said.
Stubblety-Cook’s triumphant gold medal marked the fifth for the Australian swim team in Tokyo and the seventh for Australia overall.
Australia began Thursday’s competition in fifth spot on the medal table with six gold, one silver and nine bronze.
But the nation’s best athletes have done the country proud on Thursday, adding to the haul of medals from the Tokyo Games.