Unheralded star opens Aussie medal count

2 months ago 18
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Australia's Brendon Smith won bronze in the final of the men's 400m individual medley, nabbing Australia's first medal in the event in 37 years.

Smith stormed home to claim Australia's first medal at the Games from lane four in a time of 4:10.38, which was just outside the Australian record of 4:09.27 he set in Saturday's heats.

American Chase Kalisz won gold in a time of 4:09.42 with fellow US star Jay Litherland claiming silver in 4:10:28.

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It was Australia's first medal in the event since Rob Woodhouse claimed bronze at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

The 21-year-old Victorian set an Australian record in his heat and was quickest into the final but a slow start gave the rival Americans too much of a head start.

The swimmer from Nunwading, found himself heading into the final freestyle leg in seventh spot, when he turned on the jets on the last lap to almost snatch silver, falling ten-tenths of a second short of second place.

Brendon Smith opened Australia's medal count. (Getty)

Smith qualified fastest for the final with a semi-final time that would have won him the Olympic gold but was unable to repeat the swim and hold off the American pair of Kalisz and Litherland. Speaking after the race, the Olympic debutant was stoked with opening Australia's medal count.

"It's unbelievable I can't believe it," he said.

"Twelve months ago when the games were postponed I thought 'Give me another opportunity another year to better my preparation'. To improve that much and get on the podium is absolutely incredible."

Smith got off to a less than ideal start, touching the wall sixth at the 100m mark and third at the 200m after the butterfly and backstroke legs.

He touched the wall last at the 300m and seventh at the 350m mark but put on a might effort to chase down his rivals to win a bronze medal.

Smith was the only Australian male to contest last year's International Swimming League in Budapest where he swam with the New York Breakers.

He was only 1 of 2 Australians, along with Emily Seebohm, who made the trip to Hungary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brendon Smith with Kalisz and Litherland on the podium. (Getty)

Kalisz, a protégé and former training partner of Olympic great Michael Phelps, flexed his muscles and then climbed atop the lane rope after claiming gold, splashing the water while a contingent of his teammates cheered him from the stands of the nearly empty Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

"U-S-A! U-S-A!" they chanted.

Kalisz was the silver medalist in the grueling event at the Rio Games five years ago. Now, at age 27, he's the best in the world at using all four strokes.

Litherland came over to give the winner a hug, having ensured the Americans got off to the best possible start at the pool.

After putting their own medals around their necks during a masked-up victory ceremony, Kalisz and Litherland walked around the deck arm-in-arm. No social distancing for the longtime teammates.

The Americans seized their chance after Japanese star Daiya Seto stunningly failed to advance to the final, having finished ninth in the preliminaries after making a tactical error attempting to save his energy for the medal race.

The finals were held in the morning Tokyo time rather than their usual evening slot, a nod to U.S. television network NBC, which wanted to show the finals live in prime time back in America.

with AP

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