Team USA’s Simone Manuel and 16-year-old Canadian Penny Oleksiak have spoiled the party for Australia’s Campbell sisters in a dramatic final of the women’s 100m freestyle.
The duo overhauled a fast-starting Cate Campbell to claim gold in a dead heat, both finishing in an Olympic record time of 52.70 seconds. It was only the second dead heat for gold in Olympic swimming history, pushing the Australian sisters out of medal contention. Earlier in the night Mitch Larkin claimed silver for Australia in the men’s 200m backstroke.
The Campbell sisters had joked before the event that their dream scenario would be to dead heat for gold themselves, but neither could have expected the stunning result that eventuated as Manuel and Oleksiak finished fast to overhaul the field. Bronte Campbell entered the race as the reigning world champion and Cate the world record holder, but they were denied Olympic glory in a mad scramble in the final 15m.
“That hurt, not as much as it’s hurting right now,” Cate Campbell said of the punishing finish to the race. “I’ve always said that I didn’t need a gold medal to have self-worth and I guess that that’s being put to the test at the moment.”
Sister Bronte stepped in with a philosophical take on the combined sense of disappointment. “I said to my coach before I even left ‘I’ve already won, I get to swim in an Olympic final with my sister.’ There’s not much more you can ask for than that,” she said. “I left it all out there. The Olympics is all about ... It’s not about winning, it’s about trying to win. I have no regrets. Obviously you want the result to be different but in terms of the fact that we both just laid everything that we had out there, I don’t think that either of us have anything to be ashamed of.”
Bronte Campbell finished fourth in 53.04 and Cate sixth in 53.24 after she’d led the race at the turn. Cate Campbell was sluggish off the blocks but streaked to an early lead and hit the turn well in front of world record pace, 0.27 seconds in front of Bronte. But it wasn’t enough.
Cate Campbell had qualified fastest for the event with a time of 52.71, while Bronte was fifth fastest in 53.29, behind in-form Canadian Penny Oleksiak (52.72) and American Simone Manuel (53.11). Pulling off a one-two double was always going to be a tough ask for the Australians.
In the men’s 200m backstroke final, Australian Mitch Larkin overcame the disappointment in his 100m swim to take the silver medal in his pet event. The Queenslander started well to lead by 0.26 seconds at the first turn but by the 150m mark he’d been overtaken by Ryan Murphy, and despite a strong finish by Larkin the American claimed the 100m/200m double in 1:53.62 to edge out Larkin in 1:53.96.
“What can you say? I’m pretty happy with silver to be honest,” Larkin said afterwards. “Going into this week I thought the goal was obviously two golds. That was the major goal. Going into tonight to be honest all I wanted was to stand on the podium.”
“There is that little bit of disappointment,” he added of his fourth placing in the 100m. “For me tonight I tried to control my speed. I knew like I said last night that the back end of the races is where the medals can be won and I think Murphy had a good back end and so did the Russian, so to hold on for silver I was pretty happy.”
It was only the third time that an Australian had claimed a medal in the event, following on from Mark Kerry’s bronze at the 1980 Moscow Games and Matthew Welsh’s bronze at Sydney in 2000.
In the women’s 200m breaststroke, Taylor McKeown faded late to finish in fifth position after looking a medal chance for much of the race. Her time of 2:22.43 was slower than her semi-final swim as Japan’s Rie Kaneto swam 2:20.30 to claim gold. “I probably panicked a little in that race,” McKeown said afterwards, “but it’s a learning mistake and hopefully I can learn for that for next time.”
Moments later the news wasn’t as bright for Emily Seebohm, who finished sixth in the women’s 200m backstroke semi-final to miss a spot in the final, but in the other semi her team-mate Belinda Hocking finished third to qualify for the final.
Earlier in the session Cameron McEvoy continued his disappointing Games by missing the final of the 50m freestyle, though speculation continues that the Australian has been unwell this week. “It was another chance of stepping up and racing at the Olympics and that within itself was pretty something that is pretty special,” McEvoy said afterwards.
Responding to the concerns over his fitness, McEvoy said: “Physically I’m as well as I could be on the day and that’s all there is to it. That’s sport. That’s the Olympics. When you have to race you have to race regardless of what’s happening. I’m not one to throw out excuses for anything and I’ll just get on with the job.”
This article was written by Guardian sport, for theguardian.com on Friday 12th August 2016 03.56 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010