The Australian swim team has won a lot of Olympic medals. To be more exact, they’ve won 210 all-time medals heading into Sunday’s final session, including 67 golds (plus 2 more golds and 8 more total medals won by predecessor Australasia).
That’s second-most medals in history, behind only the United States.
But prior to this week, not a single one of those gold medals was in a women’s backstroke event.
Kaylee McKeown changed that when she won the 100 back in 57.47, a new Olympic Record, and the 200 back in 2:04.68.
The women’s backstroke races were dominated by the East Germans, Americans, and Hungarians through the 1970s and 1980s. The 100 was added in 1932 and the 200 was added in 1968.
There are now only 2 remaining women’s event in which Australia hasn’t won gold. One is the 50 free, which will be raced on the final day of competition on Sunday. Emma McKeon is the top seed in that race, so Australia could get another first to close this meet.
The other is the women’s 1500, which was added this year and won by American Katie Ledecky.
By comparison, the country’s highest gold medal count all-time is in the 100 free, where they have won 5 gold medals all-time, including Emma McKeon earlier this week. Most of those wins came prior to the addition of the 50 free to the schedule in 1988, which explains the disparity between the two races that historically have some overlap.
If they get credit for Australasia, the first-ever women’s 100 free was won by Fanny Durack in 1912. While the country at the time including the modern day countries of Australia and New Zealand, Durack was born in New South Wales in what is modern day Australia.
Thanks to a 6 gold medal haul in Tokyo from Australia’s women, the country’s men and women are almost even now in all-time Olympic gold medals: the women have won 33 and the men 34. That becomes 34 and 35 when Australasia are included.
The men, however, have far-more gold-less events. They’ve never won a medal of any color in the 50 free, and have never won gold medals in the newly-added 800 free, 200 back, 100 breast, 100 fly, 200 IM, or 400 IM.
The Americans, meanwhile, have now won a gold medal in every Olympic event except the newly-added mixed medley relay, thanks in part to Ledecky’s win in the newly-added women’s 1500 and Bobby Finke’s upset win in the newly-added men’s 800 free relay this week.
By traditional gold-silver-bronze medal sort, the U.S. leads the all-time medal tables in all events except for:
- men’s 200 breaststroke (Japan has 1 more gold than the US, though the US has 2 more total medals)
- men’s 1500 free (Australia has 1 more gold and 4 more total medals).
- women’s 50 free (Netherlands has 3 golds and 4 total medals, the US has 1 gold and 5 total medals)