The first finals day of the Rio 2016 Swimming programme, and four sets of medals were decided, with the Men’s 400m Freestyle, the Women’s 400m Individual Medley (IM), the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle and the Men’s 400m Individual Medley (IM). There are also semi-final races for the Men’s 100m Breaststroke and the Women’s 100m Butterfly.
After the preliminaries, not much changed, with all the top athletes near the top of their races, however there have been some victories that may have changed the race mentality somewhat, with some records being broken just to add to the drama. The Men’s 400m IM final is wide open after the heats with the emergence of Jay Litherland (USA), and fastest qualifier Chase Kalisz (USA) to spoil the party. Daiya Seto (JPN) and Kosuke Hagino (JPN) were still favourites to medal, however that colour is ever changing. The heats of the Women’s 100m Butterfly didn’t produce many shocks, with Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), Dana Vollmer (USA), and Penny Oleksiak (CAN) coming through well within themselves, with Oleksiak breaking the junior record. The way they raced should have taken them to the final if they repeat it.
In the battle between Mack Horton (AUS) and Sun Yang (CHN) for the Men’s 400m Freestyle, it seems Conor Dwyer (USA) didn’t read the script, taking the fastest time into the finals. With Yang actually qualifying fourth, both of the favourites showed some gaps in their armour. In the Women’s 400m IM Katinka Hosszu (HUN), might as well have already taken the Gold, and goes into the final as a huge favourite. With Ye Shiwen’s world record the only actual challenge she seems to face here.
Similarly the Men’s 100m Breaststroke is pretty much said and done after the heats. Adam Peaty (GBR) broke his own world record, and is nearly a second faster than anyone else in the history of his discipline. The only question left is how fast Peaty can go. The final race of the night is the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay. The Australians are hot favourites, however they, as well as the USA and Canada have faster replacements to come in, so it will be about who can perform on the night.
Men’s 400m Individual Medley Final: Favourite – Daiya Seto, Japan
With the race finely poised, it was Hagino who took an early lead moving into a huge lead over his compatriot at the halfway stage. Onto the Breaststroke leg, Kalisz was able to reel the others back in and turned into the Freestyle leg pretty much on terms with Seto. From here he was able to consolidate second and move to catch Hagino. This was working until he got about halfway up Hagino’s hip, which is when the Japanese swimmer held firm to take the overall victory.
This is the first Olympics since 1992 that an American didn’t take Gold in this event, and the first time ever that a Japanese man has taken this Gold medal. Kalisz put up a good fight in getting to the Silver medal over the early favourite, with Seto having to settle for, and only just managing to hold onto the Bronze.
The final standings for the Men’s 400m Individual Medley were as follows:
Gold – Kosuke Hagino, Japan
Silver – Chase Kalisz, USA
Bronze – Daiya Seto, Japan
Women’s 100m Butterfly Semi-Final: Favourite – Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden
If the heats left this medal open, the semi-finals pretty much ended any speculation that Sjostrom wouldn’t take home the Gold. Breaking the Olympic record to win her semi-final ahead of anyone else by nearly a second, she showed that the route to the Gold goes through her. Sjostrom’s closest rival in the semi-finals was Emma McKeon (AUS), who was the only other person under 57 seconds.
Rikako Ikee (JPN) broke the Japanese record for the second time in the same day to qualify third overall into the final. Jeanette was right behind her by .01 of a second to move into the final seeded fourth, with Penny Oleksiak (CAN), Dana Vollmer (USA), Lu Ying (CHN) and Chen Xinyi (CHN) rounding out the final qualifying spots.
The Gold medal is pretty much a lock, and Sjostrom is getting closer to breaking her own world record. The other medals are very open and could go to anyone, with all the competitors within a second of each other. This final will be very interesting.
Men’s 400m Freestyle Final: Favourite – Mack Horton, Australia
This medal was truly one that had so much bad blood in it, with Mack Horton (AUS) and Sun Yang (CHN) at each other’s throats from the get go, so this Gold was the most hotly contested of the day. Although neither saw Conor Dwyer (USA) coming and he managed to post the best time going into the final. With Yang having a chequered past, Horton called him out to unnerve him and show that this bad blood isn’t going anywhere.
James Guy (GBR) led the field out through the first 200 metres and was under the world record time, however after the turn, Guy quickly dropped off with Yang, Horton and Dwyer taking over the lead.
Yang moved into the lead at the final turn, however after all the talk Horton refused to give up. He gave everything he had, dragging himself back into it, pushing for the touch before Yang. The race was lost completely on the touch with Horton finishing on a full stroke, whereas Yang was mid stroke, meaning Horton took the victory and the Gold medal.
Gabriele Detti (ITA) took Bronze meaning that he made himself the first Italian since the 2000 games to take a medal in the pool. At the end he was nowhere near the front, however he consolidated his third place to finish comfortably.
This event was the most interesting of the night, due to the dislike between Horton and Yang with Horton even making reference to not needing to cheat to win in his interviews after the race. The final standing for this race were:
Gold Medal – Mack Horton, Australia
Silver Medal – Sun Yang, China
Bronze Medal – Gabriele Detti, Italy
Women’s 400m Individual Medley Final: Favourite – Katinka Hosszu, Hungary
Well what can’t Katinka Hosszu (HUN) do? She came into this race with only herself to race and the Olympic and World record to aim for. Unless something went catastrophically wrong, Hosszu has basically taken this race, with only Silver and Bronze up for grabs. After the heats, the other medals were very much up for grabs, and if the others try to keep pace with Hosszu, that could spell danger for their medal chances.
Hosszu was truly dominant in this race, and saved her best till last, hunting for the world record, she knew how fast the final leg had been in London. This meant she needed a lead, and at the 300 metre turn she was five seconds ahead of the record.
Hosszu eventually won the race, beating the world record by over two seconds, and winning the overall race by nearly five seconds, ultimate dominance. Second place is nothing to complain about, and with such a dominant champion, Maya DiRado (USA) will be very proud that she was able to take the Silver by over a second herself. Taking the Bronze medal was Mereia Belmote Garcia (ESP), however she was only .15 of a second ahead of fourth placed Hannah Miley (GBR). This was all finished in the touch and while it was heartbreak for the Brit, it was elation for the Spanish Swimmer.
Final Standing for the Women’s 400 Individual Medley Final:
Gold Medal – Katinka Hosszu, Hungary
Silver Medal – Maya DiRado, USA
Bronze Medal – Mereia Belmonte Garcia, Spain
Men’s 100m Breaststroke Semi-Finals: Favourite – Adam Peaty, Great Britain
Well Adam Peaty must have seen the swim put forward by Hosszu, because he decided to match her dominance. This was only a semi-final, but he easily swam under 58 seconds again, and beat his nearest rival into the final by over a second-and-a-half. In a 100m race that is a ridiculous margin to win by.
Although Peaty was so dominant, everyone else was very competitive with one another, with everybody from second to eighth finishing within .40 of a second. Cody Miller (USA) landed himself as the second fastest qualifier, with Cameron Van Der Burgh (RSA), the Olympic champion from 2012, qualifying third fastest.
While anything can happen in the final, it is worth noting that Adam Peaty now owns the three fastest times in the history of the discipline, with two being set at this games. With that in mind, the others who qualified for the final, with a chance at the minor medals were Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN), Kevin Cordes (USA), Felipe Franca (BRA), Joao Gomes (BRA), and Dmitriy Balandin (KAZ).
Just like the race before it, this is truly a race for second place, and for Peaty it is not if he will win, it is how fast he will win in.
Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay Final: Favourite – Australia
In the final race of the night, the third Olympic record fell, and after just day one, records very much are there to be broken. The Australians didn’t lead until they started the third 100 metres, however once they took the lead, their anchor legs were too strong for the other teams and this showed with a world and Olympic record.
The Americans went for it, giving their all to displace the Australians, however it wasn’t to be, but in doing so, they managed to consolidate second and make sure they weren’t dragged into a fight for the minor medals.
The Canadians buoyed by their early success in the heats of other races managed to hold off the sprinting Dutch to bring home the Bronze and end something of a medal drought in the pool for Canada.
The medals in the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle were as follows:
Gold Medal – Australia
Silver Medal – USA
Bronze Medal – Canada
The first finals day of the Olympics provided no huge shocks, however it did show some true dominance from racers like the Australian four and Katinka Hosszu. Other races were very much closer and only added to the excitement. The overall medal table for the swimming after day one is as follows:
Medal Table (Swimming)