Tokyo 2020, Oceania Day 5: Aussie Women Fall After Questionable Relay Decision

2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

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’CallaghanMeg HarrisBrianna 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

GOLD SILVER BRONZE TOTAL
Australia 5 2 5 12

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Queen Simone
1 month ago

Love that for them

MIKE_IN_DALLAS
1 month ago

TO DATE, this was one of the THE most exciting races! The Aussies really created their own aquatic catastrophe with the way they treated the prelims squad.
But, for me, the real news was a kind of REDEMPTION to see Katie L. swimming that 200 free leg as if her life and soul depended on it. the closing 75 meters were a master class in guts, true grit, and training. She remains a queen in the pool IMHO

Robbos
Reply to  MIKE_IN_DALLAS
1 month ago

Ledecky is a legend!!! She showed that in the 400 & then the 1500 & 200 double with her winning the 1500.
Queen Katie. What a swim today.
This is Australia allover, we are great underdogs, not great favourites. Needed Titmus to fight it out with Ledecky in the end to get best out of Ledecky.

Robbos
Reply to  Robbos
1 month ago

Sorry to get the best of Titmus.

zainol
Reply to  MIKE_IN_DALLAS
1 month ago

australia has the most stupid swimming coach decision in this event.
why put leah neale in last leg, she was under perform at all, you have chance for gold medal but coach decisions irrelevent, the final line up shld be, mooly, harris, mckeon and titmus
i rate him the most stupid decision
now you get the result what do you wany

Robbos
1 month ago

The huge high I got from watching Zac win the 200 breast.
The huge race as a swimming fan of Dressel v Chalmers was also a high despite being an Aussie & Chalmers losing.
But this is a complete shock & I’m numb, all that good work so far & now so flat, the 4 x 200, already knew Wilson not swimming as fast as trials, Neale was unknown, a poor swim by Titmus (ala Dean in men’s 4 x200) & Australia in trouble & yep it happened.
Very poor by the coaches!!! They should hang their heads in shame, just to give Throssel a god medal, how did that work out?

Verram
Reply to  Robbos
1 month ago

Politics got involved I think .. and they robbed Mollie O Callaghan of two finals appearances

Corn Pop
Reply to  Verram
1 month ago

Mollie deserved that 100 spot too. That’s all

Imagine if they put Horton in only the finals ! Let’s not be sentimental , prelims are there for a reason.

Last edited 1 month ago by Corn Pop
SNygans01
Reply to  Robbos
1 month ago

Reminds me a bit of the numb, bewildered feeling after the M 4x100FS in London ’12.
Though I think that may have been even worse, because I had to get up at about 3am to watch it.

In short: poor team selection, compounded by sub-par swims – never going to end well.

Verram
1 month ago

Big loss for the Aussies gotta admit .. that would send shockwaves through the team I think in terms of relay selectors .. I think they need to be more humble and make changes to their strategies as necessary

Robbos
Reply to  Verram
1 month ago

Yep, we are not good at the trash talking favs, the Americans are excellent at it, they are confident & want to be the best. We like to be underdog, once we become the best we get lazy.

Swimmin’
1 month ago

Delete

Last edited 1 month ago by Swimmin’
Swimt
1 month ago

The Australian mentality is a bit different from the American’s. With that same mentality, I remember how Thorpe was disqualified in his 200 free, but the other Aussie swimmer must step down and gave his spot to Thorpe. It would never happen in the US team – if you are better ( and not disqualified) you are in, regardless of the status of the other swimmers. Can you imagine some American swimmer must give up his spot for Nathan Adrian?

Swimmer1733
Reply to  Swimt
1 month ago

It was the 400 free Thorpe was disqualified from. Craig Stevens gave up his spot, then Thorpe did the 200/400 double in Athens.

Swimt
Reply to  Swimmer1733
1 month ago

The point is, you Aussie don’t see any problem with it. You see gold medals, others see Olympic dreams. It’s not good or bad, just different.

Swim Fan
Reply to  Swimt
1 month ago

Michael Phelps gave up his relay spot to Ian Crocker in the 4×100 medley relay for Finals at the 2004 Olympics. Phelps swam in the prelims, then swam faster than in the 100 Fly event to earn the relay spot, but he gave it up so Crocker could have a chance to earn a gold medal.

Drama King
Reply to  Swim Fan
1 month ago

Crocker and Phelps were at same level in 2004. In fact Crocker was faster and the WR holder.

bignowhere
Reply to  Drama King
1 month ago

Yes. Crocker had gone 50.7 at trials to lower his own WR. Phelps, at this stage of his career had never gone under 51. In fact I don’t think he got under 51 until 2007 or 2008. Plus Crocker had a lot more experience with relay starts than Phelps, particularly from Brendon Hanson.

Troyy
Reply to  Swimt
1 month ago

The US also doesn’t auomatically use the top 4 from trials in the final at the games so I’m not sure what your point is.

JVW
Reply to  Swimt
1 month ago

That’t not really an apt comparison though. Imagine instead if Phelps had false-started in the 400 IM at the 2008 Olympic Trials. In that case, yes, I could actually see the second-place finisher surrendering his spot to Phelps (especially if, as was rumored with Thorpe and Stevens, some sponsors made it financially worth his while), all the more so if that swimmer was already going to the Olympics in other events as Craig Stevens was.

MarkB
Reply to  JVW
1 month ago

That would have NEVER happened. And Phelps wouldn’t have wanted it to happen. Plus, where in the rules would a disqualified swimmer be put on the US team in an individual event??

Joel
Reply to  MarkB
1 month ago

You just give them extra chances with time trials

Swimmin’
1 month ago

The way Schmitt immediately got on the lane line and started to draft off of Titmus knowing she wasn’t going to beat her outright was such a smart veteran move and probably slowed Titmus down a tenth or two. Impressive swim from all three teams really.

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
1 month ago

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Choke! Choke! Choke!

The biggest choke job in the pool at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics goes to Australia!

8 bronze medals.

zainol
Reply to  Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
1 month ago

agreed, the biggest choke in olympic history

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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