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Caeleb Dressel wins men’s 100-metre freestyle, and his first individual medal

  • >> John Branch, The New York Times
    Published: 2021-07-29 11:12:46 BdST

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics -Swimming - Men's 100m Freestyle - Medal Ceremony - Tokyo Aquatics Centre - Tokyo, Japan - July 29, 2021. Gold medallist Caeleb Dressel of the United States stands on the podium. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Caeleb Dressel, the American swimmer, won his first Olympic gold medal for an individual race Thursday, setting an Olympic record of 47.02 seconds in the 100-metre freestyle and beating out Kyle Chalmers of Australia by six-hundredths of a second.

As the announcer blared “new Olympic record,” Dressel turned and looked at the time and, beaming, climbed up on the lane rope. He hoisted both arms in jubilation and hung there for a moment, smiling, a long pause on top that made you wonder if somebody was going to tell him it was time to get off.

“I thought I executed my race plan perfectly,” he said. “I couldn’t change anything. That’s how I felt in that moment.”

Dressel and Chalmers are rivals, and they swam two lanes apart.

“I could actually see him in my peripherals, I knew he was right there,” Dressel said. “I couldn’t see him, but you can see disturbances in the water. I knew — who else would it be besides Kyle?”

Dressel exploded out of the blocks — the deciding six-hundredths of a second faster than Chalmers — and was ahead from the start. Kliment Kolesnikov earned bronze, 0.42 seconds off Dressel’s pace.

The 100 free is the classic event, one that every swimmer swims as a child before splintering off to various specialties. This version of the race came spiced with a rivalry that has been building since the 2016 Rio Games, when Chalmers, then 18, won gold and Dressel finished sixth, just shy of his 20th birthday.

But Dressel has won two world championships in the event since, and the Tokyo Games felt like a true splashdown to broader fame.

Now 24, Dressel led the United States to a gold medal in the 4x100 free relay this week in Tokyo, over Italy and Australia. His gold medal in the high-profile event of the 100 could be a type of coronation for Dressel, who has two other events yet to swim — the 50-metre freestyle and the 100-metre butterfly.

Dressel said he had hoped for an even faster time, but recognised that the Olympics are not just about the clock.

“The goal here for everybody is to get your hands on the wall first,” he said. “So I had no complaints.”

Bobby Finke of US Wins 800-Metre Freestyle

Bobby Finke of the United States won the first men’s 800-metre freestyle in an Olympics, coming from behind in the last lap to beat Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri.

Finke, 21, a four-time all-American at the University of Florida, was competing in his first Olympics.

The race was expected to be a wide-open slog, with Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine a slight favorite.

Paltrinieri arrived with one of the 10 best times in history. He had struggled in Tokyo and was relegated to an outside lane for the final, but he jumped out to the early lead, and held it through most of the race.

The pack pulled closer with each lap, and Finke surged in the final 50 metres to catch Paltrinieri, who held on for silver.

Finke finished in 7 minutes, 41.87 seconds, a quarter-second ahead of Paltrinieri. Romanchuk captured the bronze.

The men’s 800 metres was added to the Olympics for the first time this year, along with the women’s 1,500.

Australian Wins 200 Breaststroke in Olympic Record Time

Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook set an Olympic record in the 200-metre breaststroke, capturing the gold medal in 2:06.38.

Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands earned the silver medal, in 2:07.01, followed by Matti Mattsson of Finland with the bronze.

The men’s 200-metre breaststroke, a do-not-miss for fans who do like lots of splashing, was thought to be an open race, maybe a chance for Anton Chupkov of the Russian Olympic Committee to flirt with the world record he already holds.

Chupkov won the bronze medal in Rio at 19 years old, and came to Tokyo five years later with a new set of major titles under his belt. But he struggled in the semifinals and his seventh-place time landed him in an outside lane. He finished fourth in the final.

China's Zhang Yufei Sets Olympic Record in Women’s 200-Metre Butterfly

Zhang Yufei of China established an Olympic record and won the gold medal in the women’s 200-metre butterfly, ahead of Americans Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger.

Flickinger is 27, which is well-aged in swim years, and won silver at the 2019 world championships. She already had a bronze medal from the 400-metre individual medley in Tokyo, but the butterfly is her strongest stroke. Smith narrowly edged her to the finish.

Zhang’s time of 2 minutes, 3.86 seconds was the third-fastest time ever. Smith finished second in 2:05.30, with Flickinger securing the bronze in 2:05.65.

© 2021 The New York Times Company