TOKYO (Reuters) – Duncan Scott became Britain’s most decorated athlete at a single Olympics with his fourth medal from the Tokyo pool on Sunday as the country’s all-time most successful swim team piled on the superlatives in their best ever Games.
The United States took the final 4×100 medley relay gold in world record time but runners-up Luke Greenbank, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Scott — with James Wilby in the heats — smashed a much older benchmark as well as the European record.
The eight medals won at Tokyo 2020, four of them gold, capped the best Olympic swimming performance by Britain.
It surpassed the seven medals, also four of them gold, from London in 1908.
Scott’s three silvers and a gold, adding to the two relay silvers he won in Rio, sent him past the single Games hauls of gymnast Max Whitlock, and cyclists Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Bradley Wiggins as multiple medallists of the modern era.
“It’s all my team mates, that’s what that is. I’m very fortunate to be a part of some excellent relay teams, this being one of them,” said Scott.
Peaty, the dominant men’s 100m breaststroke champion and first British swimmer to successfully defend an Olympic title, and Guy both finished with three medals each while Tom Dean took two freestyle golds.
Britain finished third in the swimming medals standings, behind powerhouses the United States and Australia but ahead of China.
“Unfortunately we just didn’t do enough to get that gold but with the success we’ve had, sometimes you need a little bit of pain,” said Peaty.
“People back home will say it’s Olympic silver but that’s the standard we’re at now,” he added.
“We’re not looking at bronze, we’re not looking at silver, we’re looking at how to get gold and that’s just my mindset and I know these guys are disappointed with that as well.”
The Tokyo success stands out in comparison to the dark days of the past.
At London 2012, Michael Jamieson was the only British male swimmer to medal with silver in the 200m breaststroke.
Rebecca Adlington, a double champion at 400 and 800 in 2008 when the men failed to medal at all, added two bronzes.
In 2004, Britain’s total tally was two bronzes.
“It’s been amazing. Adam got off us to a fantastic start,” said Adlington, now a BBC TV pundit, of Britain’s performance at the 2020 meet. “We needed that ‘wow’ moment and the ball then just continued to roll.
“There’s so many greatest, historic moments. The 4×200, going on to the mixed medley relay … to see women on the podium. If there was ever a criticism of this team, it’s just that the men have been more dominant than the women.”
The transformation has followed the arrival of Peaty on the scene — the ‘Peaty effect’ acknowledged by his team mates in serving as an example of the heights that can be reached and aspired to — and a step up in coaching.
“In 2015, when we started coming together, back-to-back Olympic silvers in this event, we’d have taken that all day,” said Scott.
“We’ve come a long way,” added Peaty.
“We wait for a new generation to come through. You look at most of the team now, not just in swimming but in all sports, and there’s a new generation of athletes coming through, one that’s a lot more aware of self, which is really important.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Editing by Peter Rutherford)