Tokyo Olympics 2020: Caeleb Dressel claims 100m freestyle crown in record time; Zhang Yufei wins 200m butterfly final

·8 min read

Tokyo: US star Caeleb Dressel said he was never worried as he blazed to his first individual Olympic gold medal in the men's 100m freestyle final on Thursday, adding to his back-to-back world titles.

The 24-year-old powered to the wall in a new Olympic record time of 47.02sec to dethrone charging Australian defending champion Kyle Chalmers, who came second (47.08). Russia's Kliment Kolesnikov took the bronze in 47.44.

"I don't know if it's set in yet. It's been a really tough year, really hard. I'm really happy," he said in tears as he was connected via video link to his wife and family back home.

Dressel missed out on the individual medals at Rio in 2016, but he has since exploded, winning an incredible 13 titles over the past two world championships.

Despite the nailbiting finish, he said he was never concerned.

"I wasn't worried about anything," he said. "During the race there's only so much you can do. Whatever's gonna happen is going to happen," he said.

"I stuck to my race plan €" if it got me first, OK, if it got me second OK. I wouldn't change a thing."

Dressel went to the turn in front but had to dig deep to hold off Chalmers, needing to smash the previous Olympic record of 47.05 held by Australia's Eamon Sullivan since 2008.

It was Dressel's second gold in Tokyo after spearheading the United States to the 4x100m relay title on Monday. He will also race the 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly, and could feature in two other relays.

But it was his first individual title at an Olympics after two relay golds in Rio, a feat he was proud to achieve.

"I didn't want to admit it but now I did it I can admit it, it's a lot different," he said.

"You can't rely on anyone else. It's just you in the water, there's no one there to bail you out. It's tough. It's really tough. So I'm happy to actually do it."

Chalmers said he was disappointed not to successfully defend his title, but did all he could.

"I left everything in the pool. I gave everything I could," he said.

China's Zhang Yufei wins butterfly gold

Zhang Yufei proved untouchable in the women's Olympic 200m butterfly final, blasting to the gold medal in the third fastest time ever.

The 23-year-old has been in red-hot form this year and hit the wall in a new Olympic record time of 2mins 03.86sec ahead of American Regan Smith (2:05.30) and team-mate Hali Flickinger (2:06.65).

Victory comes as a timely boost for China, who now have their first swimming gold medal in Tokyo to add to one silver, which Zhang won in the 100m fly, and a bronze.

Zhang, a sprint free and fly specialist, had been one of only two women to crack 2:06.00 this year, with Flickinger the other. Her Olympic record at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre was also the quickest time posted in 12 years.

The 23-year-old exploded from the blocks to pull more than a second clear at the first turn and she was motoring at world record pace when the race reached halfway.

Flickinger, who took silver at the 2019 World Championships, was Zhang's closest challenger going into the last length but she was unable to close the gap and was pipped to silver by Smith at the end.

Zhang will hope to claim her third individual medal in the 50m freestyle, which starts on Friday.

Australia's Stubblety-Cook wins men's 200m breaststroke gold

Zac Stubblety-Cook swam a blistering race to claim the men's 200m breaststroke gold medal on Thursday in a new Olympic record time of 2min 06.38sec.

Arno Kamminga went out hard but was overpowered by Stubblety-Cook in the final 50m with the Dutch ace second in 2:07.01. Finland's Matti Mattsson was third in 2:07.13.

World record holder and two-time world champion Anton Chupkov could only manage fourth, capping an unhappy Games for the Russian, who missed out on making the 100m breaststroke final.

Reigning Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan failed to make the final.

"It's an honour. I'm just lost for words right now and it's still sinking in," said the Australian winner.

"That was an experienced field but as I stepped through the heat and semi it was quite exciting to know that I had a little bit more to give. I was happy enough just to be here."

Stubblety-Cook recorded the second-fastest time ever last month at the Australian trials to signal his intent and he timed his race perfectly.

Kamminga turned at the halfway mark in the lead followed by Mattsson but the Australian was always in touch and put his foot down hard in the final 50m to earn the title.

American Finke wins inaugural Olympic men's 800m gold

American Robert Finke earned the honour of becoming the first men's Olympic 800m freestyle champion on Thursday when he touched ahead of Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri in a nailbiter.

Paltrinieri led virtually from the start before Finke hauled him in over the final 50m to touch in 7min 41.87sec.

The Italian was second in 7:42.11, with Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk third in 7:42.33.

"I just wanted to get my hand on the wall. I'm so happy I could switch into another gear," said Finke.

"It means a lot. Coming into this there was a lot of doubt around American distance so I'm happy to get a medal on board for the team. I'm just really excited."

Paltrinieri was the top seed, with the fastest lifetime best of the group. He was also the only swimmer in Tokyo to have broken 7:40 in the event.

He went out fast and had a body-length lead after 100m, stretching his advantage as the race progressed.

But he tired in the final 100m, with Finke finding a late burst of speed to overtake him in the dying stages.

China win women's 4x200m freestyle in world record time

China's women stunned the field to smash the world record and win the Olympic 4x200m relay title in a major upset on Thursday.

The team of Yang Junxuan, Zhang Yufei, Li Bingjie and Tang Muhan 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 holding off a late charge by America's Katie Ledecky, who threatened an incredible comeback during the final leg.

"These girls swam their lights out and I got in a position where I thought I could take on those ladies next to us," Ledecky said. "I wish I had another half-second in me but I gave it my all."

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.

"It was a really fast race," Titmus said. "We were under our previous world record, so it was still a good swim from us.

"I feel like I should've been better but it's what you can do on the day and it's been a big couple of days, so I'm happy to come away on the podium."

Titmus trailed Yang at the end of the first leg and that set the tone, as Australia's Emma McKeon, a bronze medallist in the 100m butterfly, was behind after the second too.

China's Zhang, who had earlier won gold in the 200m butterfly, conceded some ground to America's Katie McLaughlin and Australian Madison Wilson in the third, before Ledecky made her move.

The six-time Olympic gold medallist pushed past Australian anchor Leah Neale and looked like she could even snatch victory with one length left to go.

But Li dug in, holding off Ledecky to win by less than half-a-second and secure China their second swimming gold of the Games.


Also See: Tokyo Olympics 2020: Under-pressure Simone Biles eyes team gold, Naomi Osaka takes court with tropical storm brewing

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Hungary's Kristof Milak wins men's 200m butterfly gold, sets Games record

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Aussie coach goes viral for jubilant reaction after Ariarne Titmus gold medal

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