China’s women stunned the field to smash the world record and win the Olympic 4x200m relay title in a major upset yesterday. The team of Yang Junxuan, Tang Muhan, Zhang Yufei and Li Bingjie touched in 7mins 40.33 seconds ahead of the United States (7:40.73) and Australia (7:41.29). It is the first time neither Australia nor the USA have won gold since the event was introduced in 1996. All three teams were under the previous world record of 7:41.50 set by Australia at the 2019 world championships. But China took the title after Li held off a late charge by America’s Katie Ledecky, who threatened an incredible comeback during the final leg. Ledecky’s 1:53.76 was the fastest leg of the race. Australia had been the overwhelming favourites coming in, with their women’s team already winning gold in the 4x100m relay on Sunday, when they broke their own world record. With Australian star Ariarne Titmus leading the team off on the back of wins in the 200m and 400m freestyle events this week, the expectation was they would cruise to another victory.
Caeleb Dressel won the blue riband men’s 100m freestyle. Alongside Dressel’s triumph in the marquee event, fellow American Bobby Finke clinched the 800m freestyle with an impressive late surge. Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook took gold in the men’s 200m breaststroke, also thanks to an incredible late surge to the finish.
World champion Dressel powered to victory in an Olympic record 47.02, finishing six hundredths of a second ahead of Rio winner Kyle Chalmers of Australia, with Russian Kliment Kolesnikov taking bronze.
It was Dressel’s fourth Olympic gold but his first in an individual event having picked up two relay medals in Rio and the 4x100m freestyle relay in Tokyo.
In the 800 free, Finke pulled off a surprise win ahead of Italian world champion Gregorio Paltrinieri, who led all the way until the 750m turn when German Florian Wellbrock moved in front for the last length. But Finke then made his late move and powered home in a time of 7:41.87. Wellbrock faded but Paltrinieri did not, the Italian touching 0.24 seconds behind Finke to take the silver. Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk took bronze.
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