Team GB swimmers rewrite record books at Tokyo Olympics as true team effort delivers third gold medal

·4 min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

You have to go back 113 years to the 1908 Games in London to find the last time Team GB won three swimming gold medals at the same Olympics.

But over the last three days, this crop of swimmers have rewritten the record books at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre as first Adam Peaty, then Tom Dean and now, in the most emphatic fashion of all, the men’s 4x200m freestyle claimed a place on the top step of the podium.

The quartet of Dean, Duncan Scott - who had won individual silver behind his team-mate - James Guy and 18-year-old Matt Richards produced a dominant swim to take victory ahead of the Russian Olympic Committee by a scarcely believable margin of more than three seconds, coming within three-hundredths of the world record.

This used to be America’s race, dominated at each of the past four Games by quartets featuring the great Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, but now it is Britain who appear untouchable.

After his somewhat surprising gold in the individual 200m success on Tuesday, Dean has now become the first British man to win multiple swimming gold medals at the same Olympics since Henry Taylor did so at those same London Games of 1908.

“The last 24 hours have been unreal, a complete whirlwind,” the 21-year-old said. “This was just best, best, best-case scenario.

“That 200m [individual] free was always going to be tight, it could have gone one of two ways and luckily it went mine, but this relay was so strong coming into it. I knew that. We've been talking about this for over 18 months now.”

Dean will take the headlines but this was truly a team effort. If anything the newly-crowned Olympic champion looked a tad jaded from his exploits of the previous day and was outswum by the USA’s Kieran Smith on the opening leg, but Guy dragged the Brits into a lead they would never again surrender.

This victory was a long time coming for the 25-year-old, one of the stalwarts of the British team for more than half a decade, having won two relay silvers and suffered the heartache of finishing fourth in the individual event in Rio.

“It's a dream come true,” Guy said. “I've been dreaming of Olympic gold, it's all I've ever wanted in my life and now I've done that. It just shows if you have a plan and you work hard and believe in yourself, it can happen.”

Guy handed over to Richards, who admitted that after watching team-mates Dean and Scott emphasise Britain’s dominance with their individual displays, he had begun to feel the weight of expectation ahead of the biggest race of his life.

“I was thinking about this last night, because going into this there was a lot of pressure,” he said, when asked how he had coped.

“It’s the second time ever I've raced the 4x200m freestyle and doing it in the final at the Olympic Games when we're going in favourites is terrifying, to be honest.

“But Jimmy [Guy] said to me first thing this morning, just go out and enjoy it and that's what sport's about. That's why we do this, because we all love it. That's why we get up every morning, why we work hard, why we come here and race. The pressure's there but as long as you enjoy what you're doing it's just a part of what we do.”

With the individual silver medalist to come on the last leg, all the teenager had to do was keep Britain in contention but he did much more than that, opening up clear water so that when Scott dived in, his four lengths were little more than victory laps, though he did not treat them as such, dropping an outrageous 1:43.45 leg, the fifth-fastest relay split in history.

“I'd already started crying!” Guy said. “I sat down thinking, ‘We're going to win this!’. Having that in your head, just knowing you've won, and you're just praying there's no disqualifications for the dives. Dreams do come true.”

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