Tom Dean, James Guy, Matthew Richards and Duncan Scott pose on the podium with their gold medals
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Great Britain’s swimmers raced to further Olympic history on Wednesday morning, clinching gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay to make it a hat-trick of victories in the pool for the first time since 1908.
Tom Dean and Duncan Scott, who had finished first and second in the individual 200m freestyle on Tuesday morning, were joined in the relay team by James Guy and Matthew Richards and delivered a dominant performance, winning in a time of 6 min 58.58 sec. It was a new national and European record, more than three seconds ahead of the Russian Olympic Committee in silver, and only 0.03 sec outside the world record.
Dean went out first but was clearly somewhat fatigued by his exertions on Tuesday and handed over in third, narrowly behind leader Kieran Smith for the United States. James Guy then delivered an outstanding swim on the second leg, ploughing through the field to hand over to Richards in first place.
Aged only 18, Richards might have been considered something of a weak link on the third leg but he swam magnificently, further extending the lead before handing over to Scott.
The result was now in no doubt and Scott, who could yet win four medals at these Olympics, anchored Team GB to another gold.
Calum Jarvis, who had swum in the semi-final on Tuesday in order to allow Scott to rest, did not appear on the podium but will also receive an Olympic gold medal.
Following Adam Peaty’s 100m breaststroke win on Monday and one-two in the freestyle on Tuesday, it is the third consecutive day that God Save The Queen has rung out around the Tokyo Aquatics Centre
Victory also means that Dean, a mechanical engineering student from Maidenhead, becomes the first male swimmer since 1908 to win two golds at one Olympics, following Henry Cotton and also Rebecca Adlington who achieved that feat in the women’s freestyle events at Beijing in 2008.
Tom Dean, James Guy and Matthew Richards watch the final leg
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
With Peaty going for two more golds in the relays, the swimmers could also yet overhaul the greatest performance by the British team, achieved way back in 1908 in a 100m outdoor swimming pool that had been specially constructed at the White Stadium.
The star of that particular team was Cotton, a cotton mill worker who trained in a canal and swam in a swimsuit made of hand-woven silk. He won three-quarters of Team GB’s four golds.
Peaty had spoken after his second breaststroke gold of wanting to be a “catalyst” and, having been in the stands cheering on his team-mates to further gold, his influence was praised. “It’s almost a given he will dominate – it just lifts us up – we are a force to be reckoned with,” said Dean.
Chris Spicer, Team GB’s performance director, said that Peaty’s impact was especially significant for the emerging crop of swimmers who now train with him daily in Loughborough. That group had collectively already won seven gold, five silver and three bronze medals at the European Championships earlier this year. “You can see our youngsters watching how he [Peaty] trains,” said Spicer. “He is just an inspiration – a leader in more ways than just swimming fast in the pool.”
Peaty immediately tweeted his congratulations. "Seeing this team progress over the last six years has been an honour – we always knew one day they would win the big one," he said. "Incredible effort and no one deserves it more than these lads."
Team GB’s hopes have probably also been aided by the one year Olympic postponement. Dean has improved upon his personal best by almost two seconds since last summer while Abbie Wood, Katie Hopkin, Jacob Whittle, Freya Anderson and Kathleen Dawson have all also been developing quickly over the past year.
Wood had earlier come agonisingly close to continuing Team GB’s aquatic medal rush, missing out on bronze by just 0.11 sec following a blanket finish in the women’s 200m individual medley.
The 22-year-old was in third place at the final turn following the butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke legs but, having vied for the lead in the final sprint for the final, was just edged out in the final metres as the top four swimmers all finished within 0.67 sec of each other.
Abbie Wood was agonisingly close to a medal
Ohashi Yuo made it a home win for Japan, finishing in 2min 8.52 sec, with Americans Alex Walsh and Katie Douglas just also touching ahead of Wood.
A 22-year-old criminology student at Loughborough University, Wood had already won three medals earlier this year at the European Championships and was trying to continue the tradition of Siobhan Marie O’Connor in the medley who won silver in Rio before retiring shortly before these Games due to a long-term illness..
James Wilby and Alys Thomas had also qualified for respective finals on Thursday in the men’s 200m breaststroke and women’s 200m butterfly, with Wilby, who placed fifth behind Adam Peaty in the 100m breaststroke final on Monday, recording the second best time in the competition. Wilby had been swimming under world record pace for the first 100 metres and finished less than a second outside the Olympic record.