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Swimmers eyeing first-night gold

7 August 2016

The Aquatic Centre was abuzz with colour and a stand jam-packed full of vocal fans on the first day of the swimming heats at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The Brazilian swimmers were treated to standing ovations as they took to the blocks and the fanatic screams echoed through the pool all morning, providing an energetic and electric atmosphere for all involved.

And the Australians emerged with strong chances of winning two gold medals tonight when we will be represented in three finals, with a new Olympic record and a dose of controversy part of their first session in Rio’s Olympic pool.

With four gold medals up for grabs on night one, Australia will be represented in three of those races with Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Travis Mahoney in the 400m individual medley, Mack Horton and David McKeon in the 400m freestyle and the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team - to be named tonight - all in the mix for a medal.

The women’s 4x100m freestyle relay was the highlight of the morning for the Australian swim team with the quartet of Madison Wilson, Brittany Elmslie, Bronte Campbell and Cate Campbell demonstrating their dominance to set a new Olympic Record time of 3:32.39 in the heats.

Our girls, current world record holders, will tonight defend their Olympic gold won in London in an event they will be aiming to medal for a fourth successive Olympic Games.

Backstroke specialist Wilson had the girls off to a great start with her straight arm technique keeping the team inside the top three at the first change with a time of 54.11.

London Olympic gold medallist in this event, Brittany Elmslie, was the second swimmer splitting an impressive 53.22 and most likely swimming herself onto the final team tonight.

The last two legs were left to the Campbells with Bronte pushing the team further forward with a controlled 53.26 and Cate diving in to swim half a body length clear of Canada and the USA to bring it home with an outstanding split of 51.80.

The Australian women have won gold in the 4x100m since Athens in 2004 and the current team certainly have the potential to continue this tradition.

With Cate as the current world record holder, Bronte as the reigning world champion and Emma McKeon who was ranked fourth in the world in the 100m free this year, plus the possible addition of Brittany Elmslie who is capable of a speedy split under pressure, the girls are primed for the final.

Meanwhile in other events this afternoon:

The top four finalists for the men’s 400m freestyle have less than a second separating them, with the USA’s Conor Dwyer (3:43.42) and Australia’s Horton (3:43.84) taking lane four and five respectively.

The final will come down to the touch with China’s Sun Yang (3:44.23), Great Britain’s James Guy (3:45.31) and fellow Aussie David McKeon (3:44.68) all capable of a medal winning swim tonight.

Horton was happy with his heat swim and said he felt “stupidly relaxed” this morning.

“I felt surprisingly stupidly relaxed (laughs). I was a bit nervous about how relaxed I was yesterday and this morning but it’s all working out so that’s good,” Horton said.

Tonight, the final will be much tougher but Horton was confident on stepping it up for the final.

“I need to focus on my own race and swim to what I know I can swim,” he said.

It will be important for Horton to remain focussed, however, as it seems controversy is never far from one of his rivals Yang who earlier this week was accused of splashing him in the warm-up pool.

In response to the drama Horton said: “It kind of got played up in the media a bit but he just splashed me to say hi and I ignored him because I don’t have time or respect for drug cheats. And then he wasn’t too happy about that so he kept splashing me and I just got in and did my thing.”

If Horton can do his ‘thing’ tonight he will be in with a hot chance at taking the Olympic title.

Joining Horton in the hunt for gold will be fellow Australian David McKeon, who had his family watching on in the stands and managed to swim a controlled heat to qualify fifth fastest for tonight’s final.

The women’s 100m butterfly had mixed results with Emma McKeon qualifying ninth fastest for the semi-final tonight with a time of 57.33 while her training partner Maddie Groves just missed out on a semi-final swim with her time of 58.17.

McKeon, who has a busy schedule and will most likely join the relay team tonight, said swimming the heat this morning has put her more at ease for the remainder of the competition.

“I was pretty nervous because it was my first race but it’s nice to have my first race done and get that out of the way so I feel a bit more comfortable going out in the semi tonight,” Emma said.

The Sunshine Coast surprise packet surprised even himself with his speedy heat swim in the men’s 100m breaststroke.

Packard was part of the world record breaking race that saw Adam Peaty clock 57.55 to qualify fastest for the semi-final, while the Chris Mooney-coached rising star touched in 59.26 to move through as sixth fastest qualifier.

Australian swim team debutant Joshua Palmer finished 30th overall with a time of 1:01.13.

The men’s 400m individual medley kicked off proceedings with Australian’s Mahoney and Fraser-Holmes the first of the swim team to get the chance to race.

The heats were cut-throat with the only the top eight swimmers progressing into the final tonight with both Fraser-Holmes (4:12.51) and Mahoney (4:13.37) making the cut after qualifying sixth and seventh fastest respectively.

Fraser-Holmes, who is the current Australian record holder, said he was hoping to go even faster tonight.

“Yeah, I’m really happy that was my fastest heat swim I’ve ever done so it’s good to blow the cobwebs out and hopefully comeback tonight and really give it something,” Fraser-Holmes said.

“You’ve got to be on the ball and not use too much energy or too many nerves this morning. Now it’s about switching off and recovering the best I can and come back tonight hopefully and do a better job on that.”

While Mahoney, who’s time was a personal best (PB) by over a second, said he was thrilled with his Olympic experience so far.

“When I woke up this morning I was determined to treat this race like a final,” Mahoney said.

“This was the biggest race of my life and I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I couldn’t be happier with my 1.6 second PB and to make the final is an absolute thrill! Now I’ve got to do it all over again.”

In the corresponding women’s event both Keryn McMaster and Blair Evans will miss the final after finishing 10th and 16th respectively.

Olympic debutant McMaster clocked a time of 4:37.33 to miss out on the final by just over a second while dual Olympian Evans hit the wall in a time of 4:38.91.

The last heat saw Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu swim three seconds under the world record pace at the breaststroke to freestyle turn with the ‘iron Lady, finishing just shy of Ye Shiwen’s 4:28.42 record with a 4:28.58 to go through as top qualifier tonight.

Kathleen Rayment




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