Australian Olympic great James Magnussen has hit a series of selection blunders that led to the Golden Girls being stunned by China and the US in the final of the women’s 4x200m freestyle.
Ariarne Titmus swam the first leg for Australia followed by sprint specialist Emma McKeon, Madison Wilson and Leah Neale as the Dolphins only claimed bronze from a race that some bookmakers had as extraordinary $1.04 favorites to win.
None of Australia’s final lineup was seen in the heat.
The move not to finish with Titmus, who has already won two gold medals at the Tokyo Games, raised the eyebrows of swimming legend Ian Thorpe before the race.
Magnussen, a world champion and three-time Olympic medalist, meanwhile, said Australia probably would have won at least a silver medal if 17-year-old Molly O’Callaghan had started instead of Neale.
Australia was stunned in the final of the women’s 4x200m freestyle, with China and the US chasing the strong favorites and the country’s Golden Girls. The Australian bronze medal winning lineup of Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon and Madison Wilson after Leah Neale finished third
The Australian 4x200m women’s team with their bronze medals after the race. James Magnussen, an Australian world champion and three-time Olympic medalist, said the Dolphins probably would have won at least a silver medal if 17-year-old Molly O’Callaghan had started instead of Neale (right)
While the race was Neale’s first and only scheduled dive during the Games, O’Callaghan had set the 18th fastest time in history in the 4x200m heat.
“You can understand why Mollie’s parents lost their words when they told them that Mollie would not be on the final team,” Magnussen wrote in a column for News Corp.
He claimed that if the teen had swam her last leg in the same time as during the heat — a junior world record of 1.55.11 — the girls would have at least pushed the US into second place.
If a relay switch had been allowed, Australia would have lived up to their billing and claimed gold from China.
O’Callaghan set the 18th fastest time in history in the 4x200m heat but was held out of the final by selectors
He said the four fastest times in the 200m freestyle of the Australian swimmers (Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeown, Mollie O’Callaghan, Madison Wilson) were 7:38.62 – almost two seconds faster than China’s eventual winning time from 7.40.33.
“Until today, the coaching staff has nailed every relay selection and order,” said Magnussen. “Thursday, however, the team made its first major blunder.”
“Put simply, the wrong team took the blocks in the final.”
He said a bronze medal in a competition was an outstanding achievement, but not up to expectations for an Australian women’s swim team with such talent.
Ex-Olympic gold medalist Giaan Rooney echoed Magnussen’s sentiment, saying it was a ‘big miss’ to have O’Callaghan off the team.
“I’m not sure but I think the idea was that both Titmus and McKeon would swim up front quickly but ‘comfortably’ (they both have individual matches left) and have enough lead after Wilson for Neale to anchor – biggest miss was Mollie O – 1.55.10 in the heat,” she tweeted after the race.
“I’d like to know the thought process behind it.”
Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe said he was confused with the team’s lineup just before the race when Titmus stepped up to the blocks
Despite Australia starting with its best swimmer, it was China – which was $41 outsiders for the heats – that led after the first substitution.
Taking over for the 20-year-old Tasmanian, McKeon had overtook her Chinese opponent within the first 50 meters, but China regained the lead halfway through with both teams well ahead of the world record time.
Wilson handed Neale for the final change when American swimmer Katie Ledecky tried to overtake China.
Unable to overcome the Chinese and Americans, Neale left the Aussies devastated behind the blocks, left to ponder what went wrong.
Ledecky put in a blazing fast 200m final to push China all the way to the wall.
Despite Australia leading with their best swimmer, Ariarne Titmus, China led after the first substitution and all the way to the finish
The decision to completely overhaul the relay team from preliminary round to final and lead with their best two swimmers will be scrutinized as Aus appears to have thrown away a gold medal
Australia was a glowing favorite for the event with individual gold medalist Titmus and sprint queen McKeon in the ranks, but was never in control of the race.
The foursome finished with a time of 7.41.29, faster than their heat time of 7.44.61.
Titmus, who has been the star of the Games for Australia to date, added bronze to her two golds but lost a chance to become just the eighth Aussie to win three golds in one Olympics.
She will face Ledecky one more time in the 800m freestyle.
Kyle Chalmers, who came a painful 0.06 second behind US Caeleb Dressel in the 100m freestyle less than an hour before their relay, supported the relay team from the stands.
Kyle Chalmers, who came in a agonizing 0.06 second behind Caeleb Dressel from the US less than an hour before their relay from the stands in the 100m freestyle
Australian sprint king Kyle Chalmers has finished second in the 100m freestyle final with American Kyle Dressel taking gold
Previously, the Aussie sprint king hit the wall with a fingernail behind Dressel to finish second in the 100m freestyle final.
Chalmers, who came out of nowhere to win gold as an 18-year-old at the 2016 Rio Olympics, wanted to become the first Aussie to repeat himself as the fastest man in the water.
Chalmers said this morning he revisited his 100m freestyle win at the 2016 Olympics ahead of the race for inspiration as he tried to pull off the historic feat.
The Aussies have continued to dominate the group with Zac Stubblety-Cook winning gold in the 200m breaststroke final on Thursday.
The 23-year-old from Port Lincoln came behind the American world champion for Australia’s second silver medal at the Tokyo Games.
“Winning isn’t everything…but it’s pretty nice,” the devastated swimmer said after the race.
“If the Games were last year, I wouldn’t be here.
“I am grateful for the support, my family and friends who have been there from day one. They’ve always been there for me.’
Australian Zac Stubblety-Cook has won gold and broken an Olympic record in the men’s 200m breaststroke final at the Tokyo Games
Zac Stubblety-Cook won gold earlier on Thursday and broke an Olympic record in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke final.
The 22-year-old from Queensland hit the wall in record time at 2:06.38, closely followed by Dutchman Arno Kamminga and Finnish swimmer Matti Mattsson.
Stubblety-Cook was a favorite to win after taking first place in the semifinals with the fastest time of 2:07.35.
It was the first time an Australian had won the 200m breaststroke final at the Olympic Games since the previous Games in Tokyo in 1964.
Stubblety-Cook’s family and long-term girlfriend Ella Martinkovic encouraged him from home.
“Unbelievable, I wouldn’t be here without their support, but it’s been five tough years,” he said.