By Alan Baldwin
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Simone Manuel anchored the U.S. women’s 4×100 meters medley relay team to the 1,000th gold medal in her country’s summer Olympic history on Saturday, and the second of her career.
Australia won the silver, with Cate Campbell touching out just 0.01 ahead of bronze medalists Denmark.
The United States were the defending champions and Manuel’s swim came about 40 minutes after she won silver in the 50 freestyle, an event she called a ‘work in progress’.
Had she won that, and she missed out by just 0.02, the landmark gold would have been hers alone but she was happy that was not the case.
“It’s really special and the fact that I could do it with the relay is amazing,” said the 20-year-old, who leaves Rio with two golds and two silvers after winning the 100 freestyle in a dead-heat with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak on Thursday.
“Just sharing that with three other women is the icing on top of the cake … all of them were pretty special.”
The relay win was the 23rd U.S. gold of the Rio Games and, according to the U.S. Olympic committee the 1,000th won by the country in summer competition since triple jumper James Connolly took the first in 1896.
Dana Vollmer, who swam the third butterfly leg for the U.S., was the only one in the race line-up to have also been in the 2012 winning quartet.
“This is an amazing group of girls,” said Vollmer, who came back after taking two years off and having a baby son Arlen since London. “It was really a new group this time.
“I think I needed a break, a new perspective, drive and motivation. I like challenges and goals like that.
“To have people say that you no, can’t come from two years off, having a baby and 16 months later get on the medal podium. I like having something to prove like that and something to chase.”
Olivia Smoliga, Katie Meili, Kelsi Worrell and Abbey Weitzeil also collected gold medals for swimming in the heats.
Meili also won an individual 100 breaststroke bronze while Weitzeil won a 4×100 freestyle silver.
Kathleen Baker was inside the backstroke world record after 50 meters, with Canada’s Kylie Masse second, but had dropped to fourth at the handover to 100 breaststroke champion Lilly King with Denmark leading.
King, racing against Russian Yulia Efimova, whose doping past she spoke out about earlier in the week, pulled back to second with the Russians in front.
Vollmer, a bronze medalist in the 100 butterfly last Sunday, put the holders back ahead and handed over to Manuel, who powered to the finish.
The United States also won the 4×200 freestyle relay on Wednesday, again beating Australia who had to settle for silver.
“I didn’t expect to come to this Olympics and get any medals,” said Taylor McKeown, who swam the breaststroke leg for Australia. “So the fact that I’m walking away with the silver, I’m very happy.
“And we beat Russia and China, so that’s a win for the good guys.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O’Brien)