TOKYO (Reuters) -Australia’s Emma McKeon became the first female swimmer to win seven medals at a single Olympic Games on Sunday after completing the sprint double with victory in the 50m freestyle and then winning another gold in the women’s 4×100 medley relay.
American Caeleb Dressel confirmed his dominance in men’s sprint swimming, powering to victory in the 50 free to go with his 100 gold and clinching a fifth medal of the Games as Team USA triumphed in the men’s medley relay.
There was more gold joy for the United States with Robert Finke completing the distance double, producing another late push to win the 1,500 freestyle to add to his 800 gold.
The United States ended what has been an enthralling swimming competition in Tokyo with 11 gold medals, five less than in Rio and London.
Australia won nine, their most swimming golds at a Games, and Britain left with four golds as part of a record haul of eight total medals.
McKeon, who has pocketed four golds in Tokyo, swam the butterfly leg as part of Australia’s ‘Awesome Foursome’ in the medley relay, with Cate Campbell’s superb final leg pushing the United States into silver.
That saw McKeon join Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi as the only swimmers to win seven medals at a Games. Russian gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya, in 1952, is the only woman to have won seven in any other sport.
Phelps holds the record in swimming with eight medals won in both Athens in 2004 and Beijing four years later.
“I look at the athletes who have come before me and been so impressed with what they have done and been inspired by what they have done, but I’ve never really looked at the stats of medal counts,” McKeon said.
“It is an honour because I know I’ve worked so hard for it.”
Team mate Campbell was full of praise for McKeon’s performances in Tokyo.
“Full credit to Emma … I think that we just need to acknowledge what an incredible job she has done,” Campbell said.
“She walks away from these Games with four gold medals now and I honestly could not be happier for her. She is such an important part of this team and I think that needs to be recognised.”
McKeon outsprinted the field in the 50m freestyle, with Swede Sarah Sjoestroem taking silver and Rio 50m champion Pernille Blume of Denmark bronze, and was then quickly back in the pool for the medley relay.
The Australians were second all the way to the final turn when Campbell pulled away from Abbey Weitzeil to secure the ninth gold medal for the country in the Tokyo pool — eight of which have come from the women’s squad.
Dressel, the 100m free and butterfly champion, completed his sprint double with a huge margin of 0.48 seconds over France’s Florent Manaudou, the London gold medal winner and silver medallist in Rio. Bruno Fratus of Brazil took the bronze medal.
The 24-year-old Floridian then produced the defining butterfly leg in the United States’ medley relay victory, powering ahead of Britain’s James Guy to set up Zach Apple, who sped home on the freestyle anchor leg to touch first.
Britain took silver, to secure their most successful Games in the pool, with Italy taking bronze.
“It’s fantastic. I wouldn’t change a single thing,” said Dressel as he reflected on his Games.
“The nerves are a bit different during the meet and after the meet they don’t exist. It’s a really special moment. I’m really proud of myself. It’s just really fun racing.
“I will pat myself on the back and then go away and compete again,” he said.
Finke delivered a repeat performance of his success in the 800 free with another perfectly timed late sprint to grab his second gold. His last 50 metres was almost two seconds faster than German Florian Wellbrock, who had led going into the final turn.
Wellbrock opened up a lead at the 300 mark and held it until the final length but then Finke put in a stunning surge to grab victory with Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk taking silver and the German bronze.
“I was pretty fatigued but then I realise everyone else in the field is feeling the same way I was confident in my ability to come home,” Finke said.
“I came in not really expecting to get a medal or anything and to come out of it with two golds — so I’m just going to do my best to process things.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans, Additional reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Peter Rutherford)