Thanks to Caeleb Dressel and Robert Finke, USA had something to cheer about at the Tokyo aquatics centre on Thursday (July 29). The two eased to wins in the men's 100m and 800m freestyle, respectively.
The Americans had a nightmarish time over the pool over the last five days as their star performers were given a sound beating by lesser-known rivals, but on Thursday, Dressel and Finke romped to victory in style.
China, too, had a great day throughout the morning session, clinching two gold medals, including a brilliant win in the women’s 4x200m relay over its fancied rivals, the United States and Australia. This after Yufei Zhang came up trumps in the women’s 200m butterfly final with a dominant performance.
FOLLOW LIVE - TOKYO OLYMPICS, DAY 7
Dressel, who was stopped from winning a medal in last night’s fiercely contested men’s 4x200m relay final by Great Britain, displayed his class in the 100m final, leading from start to finish in the two-lap race. The 24-year-old reigning world champion was blessed with the best start among all swimmers in the field; he gave no room to his rival as he ploughed his way back to finish in a new Olympic record time of 47.02. After the win, he pumped his arms into the air with relief.
Australia's Kyle Chalmers, who was expected to push Dressel, did his best to stay close to his rival but in vain. He was finally left to settle for silver at 47.08, ahead of Russian Kliment Kolesnikov, in third at 47.44.
It was a strong finish over the last lap that helped Finke get to the top of the field in the newly introduced men’s 800m. Finke swam a sound tactical race, never pushing hard through the initial laps and allowing his rival to keep the lead until an appropriate time; he showed he was the true master, surging ahead right in the nick of time and getting back to the wall in 7:41.87. Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, winner of the 1500m free gold in Rio 2016, took silver in 7:42.11, while Mykhailo Romanchuk earned the bronze in 7:42.33.
Izaac Stubblety-Cook provided Australia with another gold medal as he won the men’s 200m breaststroke final with a new Games record to boot. The 22-year-old from Brisbane, who was placed fourth in the same event in Gwangju, took his chance to overwhelm the field with a great swim over the last lap; he landed the gold medal of the event, which was last won by an Australian way back in 1964.
Zac was sixth at the end of the first turn, but his resoluteness saw the Aussie get to third place over the final turn. And from then on, he simply swam away, leaving the rest of the field exasperated, before touching in 2:06.38. Dutch Arno Kammingo, who virtually led the race all through before being overtaken by the eventual winner, claimed silver in 2:07.01 ahead of Matti Mattsson (Finland), the winner of the bronze medal (2:07.13).
The Chinese held sway over both the women's events held during the day. Zhang took the 200m fly gold with a classy performance, registering a new Olympic record. The 23-year-old, who was sixth in Rio 2016, held the lead through all the four laps of the race as she outswam her rival quite determinedly and in the end was an easy winner in a career-best performance of 2:03.86.
American Regan Smith once again proved to be a disappointment, taking second place in 2:05.30 ahead of team-mate Hali Flickinger, who finished in 2:05.65. It was a second bronze for Flickinger, who is one of the oldest swimmers in the American squad, having finished third in the 400m individual medley earlier.
Shock of the day
The shock of the day came in the 4x200m freestyle relay , as firm favourite Australia was pushed to third place and its world record was broken. This also paved the way for Yufei Zhang to her second gold of the day; she swam a terrific third lap and got China back into the lead where it stayed through the remaining part of the race. Junxnan Yang, who led outstandingly in the first lap before the Australians seemed to plough their way back in the second, swum for China alongside Muhan Tang. But with Zhang helping her country back into the lead, Li Bingjie ensured the surprise gold for the Asian team with a new world record time 7:40.33.
Katie Ledecky further bruised the all-conquering Aussies with a great anchor lap, and helped the United States to the silver in a new American record time of 7:40.73, even as the disgusted Australian quartet finished way behind in third, in 7:41.29.