2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
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The Australians were regarded as near-locks to win the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay coming into the Tokyo Olympic Games, having had a historically fast 200 free final at their Olympic Trials in June, where the top four times had an add-up under the existing world record.
The top two Aussies in the event at Trials, Ariarne Titmus and Emma McKeon, had a strong start to the Games, with Titmus winning gold in both the 200 and 400 free and McKeon producing one of the fastest 100-meter splits in history on the world record-setting 400 free relay.
These performances really drove home Australia’s favorite status in the relay, so much so that the coaching staff appeared to have made a premature decision on the team’s lineups from the heats to the final.
According to a release from the Australian Olympic Committee, the four swimmers that lined up for the prelims—Mollie O’Callaghan, Meg Harris, Brianna Throssell and Tamsin Cook—were informed beforehand that none of them would be advancing to the final, no matter how fast they swam.
“(They) all swam their hearts out, knowing that none of them would swim for gold on,” the release said, referencing their performances in the prelims, which were, in fact, very good.
O’Callaghan in particular was a star, lowering the World Junior Record on the lead-off leg in 1:55.11—a time that would’ve been fifth in the individual 200 freestyle, and faster than Madi Wilson or Leah Neale had ever been.
Wilson and Neale were two of the swimmers earmarked to slot into the final, along with Titmus and McKeon, but many believed Neale’s spot was in question after O’Callaghan’s performance.
However, despite what O’Callaghan dropped in the heats, Australia was steadfast in their approach, putting out a lineup of Titmus, McKeon, Wilson and Neale into the final.
Expected to dominate no matter what lineup they used, Australia had average splits across the board by their standards, including Titmus going almost a second and a half slower than her PB from Trials in 1:54.51.
Neale was the slowest leg in 1:55.85, which works out to be about a second slower than O’Callaghan’s morning lead-off with a relay exchange factored in. However, Neale certainly didn’t underperform by any stretch of the imagination. She was more than two tenths under her flat-start best.
The Australians ended up with the bronze medal in 7:41.29, just under a second shy of world record-breaking China (7:40.33).
The decision to leave O’Callaghan off of the finals relay, along with a questionable order (going fastest to slowest), and a pair of phenomenal showings from China and the United States all factored into the Aussies getting upset in an event that looked like a forgone conclusion coming in.
Oceania Day 5 Quick Hits
- Zac Stubblety-Cook won gold for Australia in the men’s 200 breaststroke, setting a new Olympic Record in 2:06.38. It is the country’s first gold in the event since 1964.
- Kyle Chalmers won silver in the men’s 100 freestyle in a time of 47.08, matching his personal best time from 2019. Chalmers was the 2016 Olympic champion.
Continental & National Records Through Day 5
- Lewis Clareburt set a new Oceania and New Zealand record of 4:09.49 during heat 3 of the men’s 400 IM prelims.
- Right after Clareburt’s swim Australian, Brendon Smith took the Oceanic record from Clareburt with a 4:09.27 in heat 4. That left Clareburt with the New Zealand record and gave Smith the Australian and Oceanic marks.
- Emma McKeon swam her way to a 55.82 Australian, Oceanic, and Commonwealth record during the prelims of the event. She then lowered the Australian and Oceanian records to a 55.72 during the final which was good enough for bronze.
- During the final race of the night, the Australian women become the first-ever nation to get under 3:30 in the 4×100 free with their world record-breaking 3:29.69.
- Ariarne Titmus secured a new Australian, Oceanian, and Commonwealth record during the women’s 400 freestyle with her 3:56.69 for gold.
- Kaylee McKeown hit a 57.88 Olympic record during the women’s 100 backstroke prelims which was broken by Regan Smith 1 heat earlier (57.96) who took it from Kylie Masse 1 heat earlier (58.17). The record was previously held by Emily Seebohm at a 58.23 from 2012. Regan Smith took the record back with a 57.68 during semi-finals until McKeown brought it down to a 57.47 (just 0.02 off her own world record) in the final.
- Ariarne Titmus‘ 1:53.50 gold medal time in the women’s 200 freestyle was a new Olympic record, improving upon Allison Schmitt‘s 1:53.61 from 2012. She got within half a second of her own Australian record in the event of 1:53.09.
- McKeon clocked 52.11 for a new Olympic Record in the women’s 100 free prelims.
- Zac Stubblety-Cook lowered the Olympic Record in the men’s 200 breaststroke in 2:06.38.
- The team of Titmus, McKeon, Madi Wilson and Leah Neale set a new Commonwealth, Oceanian and Australian Record in the 800 free relay in 7:41.29.
Medals Table for Oceania Through Day 5