American Caeleb Dressel has won his fifth Tokyo Games gold medal, finishing off one of the greatest performances in Olympic history.
Dressel swam the butterfly leg as the Americans set a world record in the 4×100 meter medley relay with a time of 3 min 26.78 sec. That dwarfs the 3: 27.28 mark they set at the 2009 world championships in Rome in rubber suits.
Ryan Murphy, Michael Andrew and Zach Apple joined Dressel on the winning team. That ensured the Americans closed out the swimming competition with another gold in a race they never lost at the Olympics.
Early in the session, Dressel won the 50 freestyle for his third singles title of the games, navigating a relatively easy victory in the frantic race from one end of the pool to the other and hitting an Olympic record of 21.07 seconds.
When the 24-year-old Floridian saw his moment and, more importantly, the “1” next to his name, he splashed into the water and flexed his bulging arms.
Dressel swept the 50th and 100th freestyle races, along with a world record win in the 100 butterflies and a stage for the winning US team in the 4×100 freestyle relay. And he still had one more shot at five medals on the last day of swimming at the Tokyo Aquatic Center.
A few minutes after Dressel emerged from the pool, Australian Emma McKeon completed her own freestyle sweep. She touched in 23.81 seconds to take the women’s 50 free practice, which added to her victory in the 100 and her sixth medal overall in these games.
In keeping with the theme of the day, Bobby Finke managed his own sweep in the two longest freestyle races.
With another strong finishing kick, Finke became the first American man in 37 years to win the 1,500 freestyle. He added to his victory in the 800 freestyle, a new men’s event in these games.
In the men’s 50, Frenchman Florent Manaudou finished behind Dressel to repeat as an Olympic silver medalist in 21.55, while Brazilian Bruno Fratus claimed bronze in 21.57, beating American Michael Andrew for last place on the podium.
In the preparation room, shortly before the race, Dressel paced anxiously up and down while most of the other swimmers relaxed in their chairs.
So, he was as calm as can be in the most furious lap of swimming. Coming out of the water with the lead, as his impeccable underwater technique always does, Dressel was clearly in the lead in a race that is often too close to call.
Dressel had one more event: the 4×100 medley relay, a race the United States has never lost at the Olympics. I was swimming the butterfly leg in a race that culminates in nine days of swimming competition in a seat of 15,000 that, sadly, was almost empty for the entire encounter.
If Dressel achieves a fifth victory, he would join Americans Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi, as well as East German Kristin Otto, as the only swimmers to win up to five golds in a single Olympiad. Phelps did it three times.
McKeon also has a shot at history after winning with an Olympic record time of 23.81.
Silver went to Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström at 24.07, while defending Olympic champion Pernille Blume from Denmark settled for bronze this time at 24.21.
American Abbey Weitzeil finished last in the field of eight women.
McKeon has a chance to win his seventh medal in the 4×100 medley relay. No swimmer has caught that many in one game.
Just as he did when winning the 800 freestyle, Finke stayed close throughout the 30-lap race and sped up at the end. He played in 14 minutes, 39.65 seconds.
Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk took silver in 14: 40.66, while bronze went to German Florian Wellbrock in 14: 40.91. Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri fell to fourth place in 14: 45.01.
The top four were close for most of the race, often separated by less than a second. But that was just where Finke needed to be. After his last lap in the 800s, he knew he had the speed at the end to beat everyone else.
Finke has been perhaps the biggest American surprise in the pool. Relatively unknown before the US trials, he became the first American man to win the grueling event since Mike O’Brien at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism