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Freestyle relay bronze for Aussie men

8 August 2016

SWIMMING: The Australian men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team left nothing in the tank on a tough second night of finals at the Rio Olympic Games, fighting all the way to the wall to touch just ahead of the Russian team and claim a well-earned bronze medal. 

The quartet was a mix of youth and experience with James Roberts, Kyle Chalmers, James Magnussen and Cameron McEvoy clocking a time of 3:11.37 for a place on the podium.

“I’m pretty excited. It was a crazy race, felt like open water swimming in there,” Magnussen said.

“There were bodies flying everywhere and a lot of splash but it was really exciting!

"I think to get a bronze medal at an Olympics, I think for us two (referring to Roberts and himself) who maybe didn’t even expect to be here is pretty exciting.”

Both Roberts and Magnussen have had surgery in the past year and both were incredibly proud to be racing again.

“I think like James, I’m just so proud to be back on this team and to get an Olympic bronze, you know I am an Olympic medallist now and I really didn’t think I’d be in this position a year ago,” Roberts said.

“After making trials it was one of the happiest moments of my life and definitely to get up here and be given a chance to swim alongside these other boys again and play my part means so much to me.”

Twenty-two-year-old McEvoy had suggested in the pre-event press conference that this event would be one of the toughest on the program due to the depth of talent across the board in the 100m freestyle and he was right.

“I’ve always expected that the 100m freestyle is going to be a race,” McEvoy said.

“In my mind it was never something that I was going in expecting to win. I guess that relay shows my prediction was correct to an extent and relays are very different to individual races, they’re raced very differently and I am just extremely happy with the split I did then.”

In a positive sign for the individual event, McEvoy split the second fastest time of the final, clocking a 47.00 to Nathan Adrian’s 46.97 while Chalmers recorded a 47.04 from the heats.

To come away with a medal was a big ask for the team and the boys battled for the bronze, with McEvoy flying past Russia’s Alexander Sukhorukov in the final 50 metres of the race to touch in third.

The relay was Australia’s only swimming medal at the Aquatic Centre on a night of near misses but it was a tough night of racing for swimmer across the board with seasoned professionals missing medals or missing finals.

That is the Olympic environment, it is testing and medals are going to be hard to come by.

It was the backstrokers who provided the other highlights of the night with Mitch Larkin, Madison Wilson and Emily Seebohm all securing a final swim in the 100m back tomorrow.

In the men’s event Larkin qualified third fastest with a time of 52.70 and knows he will need to nail his skills tomorrow night to get close to taking the title.

“I was a bit long on the wall with my finish, and a maybe little bit slow out, but there is plenty of time to work on that tomorrow,” Larkin said.

“Give it another day, my speed is coming along still and I have been concentrating on my fitness side with the 200, which is obviously later in the week, but I’m feeling pretty good and it’s going to be a close race tomorrow.”

Fellow Australian Josh Beaver finished seventh in his semi-final with a time of 53.95 but will race in the 200m back later this week.

In the women’s event it was Wilson who got the edge over her competitors tonight, taking out her heat in a time of 59.03. Seebohm, the Olympic silver medallist and reigning world champion in the event went slightly slower than this morning and just snuck into the final in seventh spot with her 59.32.

The second semi-final saw three swimmers dip under the elusive 59-second barrier so tomorrow night’s final will be anyone’s for the taking.

In other finals action:

It wasn’t to be for Olympic relay gold medallist and world record holder Emma McKeon in the women’s 100m butterfly final.

The 22-year-old, who had the second fastest qualifying time from the semi-finals, finished seventh in a time of 57.05 while the overall winner, Sarah Sjostrom from Sweden won gold and broke the world record in the process with a time of 55.48.

The silver and bronze medals went to Canada’s Penny Oleksiak (56.46) and USA’s Dana Vollmer (56.63) respectively. McKeon will now switch her focus to the 200m freestyle with the individual event and relay still to come.

The women’s 400m freestyle saw USA powerhouse Katie Ledecky set a new world record in the event, stopping the clock at an incredible 3:56.46 for gold.

The race for the minor medals was far closer with Great Britain’s Jazz Carlin claiming silver in 4:01.23 with Leah Smith from the USA rounding out the top three in 4:01.92.

Australia’s Tamsin Cook (4:05.30) and Jessica Ashwood (4:05.68) couldn’t improve on their times from the heats and finished in sixth and seventh respectively.

Australia’s Thomas Fraser-Holmes predicted the men’s 200m freestyle would be cut throat and it was.

The Gold Coast-based swimmer gave it everything he had in the semi-final tonight but finished up in ninth place, missing the final by an agonising 0.01 of a second.

Fraser-Holmes clocked 1:46.24 to finish just behind Great Britain’s James Guy (1:46.23) who filled the eighth spot for the final tomorrow night.

China’s Sun Yang was the top ranked swimmer with his time of 1:44.63 and will go in as favourite for the final.

“I planned to do a PB but it just didn't happen for whatever reason it didn't come up tonight but I can walk away happy," Fraser-Holmes said.

"But that's the Olympic Games, one hundredth of a second can be the difference between a gold or in my case making a final. But I've got the relay in two days' time and I'm looking forward to that; we've got a strong team which is really encouraging.”

After impressing in the heats this morning Sunshine Coast swimmer Taylor McKeown has missed out on a finals berth in the 100m breaststroke.

McKeown was unable to replicate her speedy heat swim and ended up 11th overall with a time of 1:07.12.

McKeown’s Olympic campaign however is still very much alive with both the 200m breaststroke and the 4x100m medley relay still to come.

Kathleen Rayment

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