The Australians lost their world record and an expected gold medal following a dominant performance from China. Katie Ledecky anchored the United States to silver, with Australia’s quartet settling for bronze.
In the relay final, having qualified fastest on Wednesday, the reigning world champions Australia underscored their formidable depth by sending out an entirely different team for the final.
But the change backfired when the Chinese and American teams overhauled a strong Australian start from Ariarne Titmus and Emma McKeon. The gold medal for China is the first time since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing that the Americans have lost the women’s 4x200m race – but a disappointing result for the Australians, who had been predicted to comfortably win the relay.
The legendary list of US men to win Olympic gold in the 100m free:
While the Aquatics Centre is, of course, largely empty, it’s far from quiet, with a few hundred officials and team members from various countries cheering on the swimmers from the stands. The US contingent is one of the biggest, most animated and loudest, with some of them banging noise-sticks and chanting U-S-A! U-S-A!
Even before Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky dive in later in the session the Americans have had some medal success to shout about, with Bobby Finke winning gold in the men’s 800m freestyle and Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger taking silver and bronze respectively in the women’s 200m butterfly.
He was the youngest. But he was the fastest. On Thursday, 22-year-old Zac Stubblety-Cook won the first gold medal for Australia’s men at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, beating home a more experienced field to break the Olympic record in the 200m breaststroke final.
Stubblety-Cook started slowly, touching the wall in sixth at the first turn. But the Australian slowly reeled back fast-starting Dutchman Arno Kamminga, touching third at the final turn before a stunning last lap lifted Stubblety-Cook to the top step of the podium.
His win adds another gold to Australia’s burgeoning medal tally in Tokyo – with the potential for more to come later in the morning on Thursday.