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Rare sprint double in Aussies' reach

12 August 2016

SWIMMING: The women’s 100m freestyle could produce a rare double for the Australian swim team.

If Cate or Bronte Campbell can take the title, Australia will have both the men’s and women’s 100m freestyle champion at the same Olympic Games for only the third time ever.

After Kyle Chalmers took the win last night, the first time an Australian male had won that event in 48 years, he set up the potential for a historic night tonight.

It was Dawn Fraser and Jon Henricks in 1956 and then Fraser again with John Devitt in 1960 – the only two times in Australian swimming history that this has occured.

After breaking the Olympic record in the heats and then lowering it again in the semi-finals, Cate Campbell, who is also the current World Record holder in the event (52.06), will go into the women’s final as the one to beat.

But, it is the Olympic Games and anything can happen. In 2012 Cate was favourite again and after winning gold in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, the Simon Cusack coached star got sick before her individual event and was unable to compete.

The elder Campbell has been in fine form here in Rio, anchoring home the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team to gold in a new World Record time and breaking two Olympic Records, she will be tough to beat.

Don’t discount her younger sister Bronte either, she is a racer and won’t hold back, even if it means beating her sister. In 2015 it was Bronte who upstaged Cate at the World Championships to take the titles in both the 50 and 100m freestyle.

Then there is Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, she will be the other gold cap in the pool. Sjostrom set a new World Record in the 100m butterfly to take the gold, then won silver in the 200m freestyle earlier this week so will be another one to watch tonight.

One thing is for sure, tonight’s final will be fast and if the sprint siblings can keep calm and in control, they could soon be sharing the podium at an Olympic Games.

Also in finals action tonight:

Women’s 200m breaststroke

Australia’s Taylor McKeown will swim from lane four in this event tonight after clocking the fastest time from the semi-finals with a 2:21.69.

Less than a second separates the top six swimmers and it will likely be a race won on a combination of strategy and speed – whatever happens a new Olympic champion will be crowned.

After the semi-final win last night, McKeown said she still has more to give in the final and is looking forward to a close race.

“It was just outside of my PB. I backed off a little bit in the last 30m and stretched out my stroke and saved a little bit more,” McKeown said.

“I’m really, really happy with that. I certainly didn’t expect to be going through my first Olympics as the fastest seed for the final which is really exciting. I’m really happy about that and I think it’s going to be a great race tomorrow. I have a lane now. If you have a lane, you have a chance.”

The last Australian woman to win this event was Bev Whitfield in 1956. After narrowly missing the final in this event at the 2015 World Championships, McKeown will now be in the mix for a medal tonight.

Men’s 200m backstroke

All Aussie eyes will be on Mitch Larkin in the men’s 200m backstroke final, as the second fastest qualifier and the reigning World Champion in the event.

Larkin swam a time of 1:54.73 in the 200m semis and after just missing a medal in the 100m backstroke earlier in the meet he will leave nothing to chance tonight.

“What I learned from the 100, being a final, you do get that extra energy, that extra boost,” Larkin said.

“I’m looking forward to that. Tomorrow night I want to stick to my plan and execute it as best I can.”

He will need to get the better of a tough field with Russia’s Evgeny Rylov the fastest qualifier in 1:54.45 and two strong Americans, Jacob Pebley (1:54.92) and Ryan Murphy (1:55.15) third and fourth fastest behind Larkin.

The finals will commence at 10pm (11am AEST).

Kathleen Rayment

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