By Sharon Robb
TOKYO, Japan, July 31, 2021–In an exciting finish to the eight-day swimming competition, the U.S. men came up big Saturday at the Olympic Aquatics Centre.
Caeleb Dressel, 24, won his fifth gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics joining the elite group of Michael Phelps, Matt Biondi and Mark Spitz as the only U.S. swimmers to win five gold medals in a single Olympic Games.
Dressel won the 50-meter freestyle in an Olympic record 21.07 and rallied the underdog 4×100-meter medley relay team to a gold medal and world record 3:26.78 to keep the U.S. team’s undefeated streak alive at 15. Dressel also won gold medals in the 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 4×100 free relay earlier in the week.
After strong relay legs from Ryan Murphy (52.31 split) and Michael Andrew (58.49 split), Dressel gave anchor leg Zach Apple (46.95 split) a half-second lead going into the freestyle leg. Dressel’s relay leg of 49.03 was the fastest in history. The U.S. had never lost the relay but were considered underdogs to Great Britain after barely qualifying for the final by 3/10ths of a second and ending up in Lane One for the final.
The relay broke a 12-year-old world record held by a U.S. team that included Phelps and Aaron Piersol at the 2009 World Championships.
Before the relay, Dressel won his sixth gold overall (in two Olympics) and fourth in Tokyo. With the second-fastest start (0.63), Dressel held off Frenchman Florent Manaudou, who had the quickest start (0.61), to win in 21.07. Manaudou took silver in 21.55.
Brazil’s Bruno Fratus, who trains at Coral Springs Swim Club, took the bronze in 21.57 for his first career Olympic medal at age 32. It was the 91st time Fratus has broken 22 seconds, more than any other swimmer in history.
St. Petersburg’s Bobby Finke did it again. Just as he did in the 800-meter freestyle to win gold, the University of Florida senior turned on the after jets in the final 50 with a 25.7 split to win the 1500-meter freestyle in 14:39.65.
It was the first time a U.S. male won the 1500 event since Mike O’Brien of Mission Viejo 37 years ago at the 1984 Olympic Games.
“This means the world to me,” Finke said. “I was just trying to hold on and get my hand on the wall.”
In the women’s championship medal finals:
Women’s 50-meter freestyle:
Aussie Emma McKeon, 27, won her sixth medal of the Games with an Olympic record time of 23.81 and another gold in the medley relay to become the most decorated Aussie swimmer in a single Olympics. She had the slowest start (0.70) but turned it on in the final 10 meters. Sweden’s world record holder Sarah Sjoestroem, 27, overcame a fractured elbow sustained in February when she slipped on ice, to take home the silver medal in 24.07 and her fourth Olympic medal of her career. She had the second fastest start (0.63). Denmark’s Pernille Blume, who had the fastest start (0.62) and was defending champion after winning in Rio, won the bronze in 24.21. Only 3/10ths of a second separated the field of eight women that had won 28 combined Olympic medals.
Women’s 4×100-meter medley relay: Three teenagers Regan Smith, Lydia Jacoby and Torri Huske and Olympian Abbey Weitzeil, swimming anchor leg, just missed a gold medal by 3/100ths of a second. Australia won in an Olympic record 3:51.60, the eighth gold medal for the Aussies. The U.S. finished in 3:51.73. Canada was third in 3:52.60. The U.S. women had won 10 of the last 14 relay titles.
With the open water events still to come this week, the U.S. finished with 30 medals (11 gold, 10 silver, 9 bronze)and Australia earned 20 (9 gold, 3 silver, 8 bronze). Great Britain was third with 8 medals (4 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze). Twenty one nations managed to win at least one medal in Olympic swimming.
50-meter freestyle: 1. Emma McKeon, AUS 23.81, OR, 2. Sarah Sjoestroem, SWE 24.07, 3. Pernille Blume, DEN 24.21.
4×100-meter medley relay: 1. Australia 3:51.60, OR, 2. U.S. 3:51.73, 3. Canada 3:52.60.
50-meter freestyle: 1. Caeleb Dressel, US 21.07, OR, 2. Florent Manaudou, FRA 21.55, 3. Bruno Fratus, BRA 21.57.
1500-meter freestyle: 1. Bobby Finke, US 14:39.65, 2. Mykhailo Romanchuk, UKR 14:40.66, 3. Florian Wellbrook, GER 14:40.91.
4×100-meter medley relay: 1. US 3:26.78, WR, 2. Great Britain 3:27.51, ER, 3. Italy 3:29.17.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org