Australia’s Relay Riches On Display As Dolphins Make Opening Night Splash In Tokyo

Bronte Campbell smile
HAPPY CAMPBELL: Bronte Campbell had every reason to be a happy camper after she anchored the Australians into lane four for the 4x100m freestyle final. Photo Courtesy Simone Castrovillari.

Australia’s embarrassment of riches was very much on show on the opening night of swimming in Tokyo with the Dolphins blasting their way into the top ten fastest all-time relay times in history in the heats of the women’s 4x100m freestyle.

Their 3:31.73 was the fastest preliminary performance ever swum and just 1.68 outside Australia’s own world record of 3:30.05 – set at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

And it sets the Australians up for a history making third gold medal splash after taking the blue ribband relay in London and Rio – primed to become the first Australian relay team to win three consecutive Olympic relay gold medals – an event first won by the Australians in the Dawn Fraser led team of 1956 and again in Athens in 2004 when Olympic champion Jodie Henry brought the Aussies home.

The Australian teams between the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2019 World Championships have recorded six of the eight fastest times in history including the fastest five – re-writing the world record books along the way – the ninth came last night.


OLYMPIC DEBUT: Baby Dolphin Mollie O’Callaghan takes her first Olympic plunge. Photo Courtesy: Simone Castrovillari

And remarkably the Aussie girls swam the relay heats without the two fastest girls in the world – Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell – a huge advertisement for Swimming Australia’s ‘Relay Project” scheme under the expert analysis and planning of Performance Solutions Manager Jess Corones.

And the Australian selectors now face the unenviable tough task of deciding who will be the two girls to miss out on the finals team.

Baby of the Australian Games team in Tokyo, 17-year-old St Peters Western schoolgirl Mollie O’Callaghan showed nerves of steel to lead the team off tonight in a personal best time of 53.08 –in her senior international debut swim.

Then followed her SPW team mate, former Mackay Nipper  Meg Harris (52.73) and the unflappable Rio Olympian Madi Wilson (53.10) with two-time Olympic relay golden girl Bronte Campbell (52.82) bringing the team home as they nudged a world record.

A mark set by the Australians in 2018 that will surely be sunk when McKeon and Cate Campbell unleash their sprinting prowess on the Tokyo Aquatic Centre – two girls who have proved second to none through 2021 and in every previous relay success.

The Australian 4x100m freestyle relay dominance looks like this:

3:30.05 AUS Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018

3:30.21 AUS Gwangju World Championships 2019

3:30.65 AUS Rio Olympics 2016

3:30.98 AUS Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014

3:31.02 USA Gwangju World Championships 2019

3:31.48 AUS Kazan World Championships 2015

3:31.58 AUS Tokyo Pan Pacs 2018

3:31.72 NED Rome World Championships 2009*

3:31.73 AUS Tokyo Olympics 2021

3:31.78 CAN Gwangju World Championships 2019

Brendon Smith action

IN THE B UBBLE: Brendon Smith on his eway to a new Australian record in the 400IM. Photo Courtesy:Simone Castrovillari.

Meanwhile earlier in the night in the 400m individual medley Australia’s Brendon Smith (4:09.27) and New Zealander Lewis Clareburt (4:09.49) gatecrashed their way into the final with National records as they chase Oceania gold in this event for the first time – in an event dominated by the US, who have won the 400IM eight times since it was first swum in 1964.

Smith (55.76; 1:58.91; 3:12.18) powered home over the final 50m in 28.05 – his 4:09.27 ranking him 13th all-time in the world with the 2019 World Championship bronze medallist Clareburt (56.48; 1:59.71; 3:11.37) jumping to the 14th fastest all-time.

The only medal ever won by an Oceania swimmer has been Rob Woodhouse (Dynamic Dolphin Emma McKeon’s uncle) and like Smith a proud Victorian.

In a major shock, 2021 rankings leader Japan’s Daiya Seto missed the final with American Chase Kalisz – the Rio silver medallist – chasing the USA’s ninth gold.


The records continued in the women’s 100m butterfly with Australia’s Emma McKeon setting new Oceania, Commonwealth and Australian record of 55.82 when she dead-heated with China’s Zhang Yufei – as they led the qualifiers into the semi-finals.

McKeon bubble

FACE PLANT: Emma McKeon – a name to remember. Photo Courtesy: Simone Castrovillari

McKeon split 26.04 to Zhang’s 25.66 – coming home strongly in 29.78 to the Chinese girls’ 30.16 – taking 0.01 off Canadian world champion Maggie MacNeil’s previous records, set in 2019.

It moves McKeon up the all-time world performers list into fourth with her main opponents in Tokyo – world record holder Sarah Sjoestroem (SWE) 55.48, Zhang 55.62 and Tori Huske (USA) 55.66 ever swimming faster. In the men’s 400m freestyle Australian pair Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin dead-heated for first in the last of four heats – stopping the clock at 3:45.20 to qualify in equal fourth place into tomorrow’s final.

Top qualifier for the final, Henning Bennet Muhleitner (GER) swam a personal best of 3:43.67 as did Austria’s Felix Auboeck 3:43.91 – with only Winnington (3:42.65) and McLoughlin (3:43.27), swimming faster in 2021, clocked at the Australian Trials.



Elijah and Jack end of race

FIRST JOB DONE…FINAL TO COME: Olympic qualifiers, Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

In a helter-skelter race for the top eight Winnington and McLoughlin out-touched US boys Kieran Smith (3:45.25) and Jake Mitchell (3:45.38) with less than half-a-second between fourth and eighth.

Winnington spoke after the race of the the nerves leading into his maiden international 400m freestyle event and the relief just to make the final.

“I was actually feeling a bit of pressure yesterday, I was feeling quite nervous just about making the final – that was the first time I’ve actually swum a 400m freestyle internationally – that’s the first time I’ve actual;ly raced some of those guys, so fortunately I was next to Jack,” said Winnington.

“A very similar heat swim I did at Trials  and I saw the heat before me which was a little slower than I thought they were going to go so..but I did the job..I’m in a good lane (for the final) so I’m excited.

“I executed the first three-quarters of the race the way I wanted and I saw Jack was making a move on that last 50m as were the US guys were making a move also saw I had to drop the hammer with 15 to go to make sure I could to get iun tyhere safely so it was good touch the wall.”

Australian boys Matt Wilson (1:00.03) and Zac Stubblety-Cook (1:00.05) were 22nd and 24th respectively in the 100m breaststroke heats and turn their attentions to their specialist 200m event later in the program – with Australia’s coaches hoping the boys can to pull something out of the bag in the Mixed and Men’s Medley relays.

Bronte Campbell smile

Photo Courtesy:

Matt Wilson action 3

Matt Wilson Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

Zac Stubblety Cook action 3

Zac Stubblety-Cook Photo Courtesy:Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

Elijah Winnington action

Elijah Winnington Photo Courtesy: Simone Castrovillari

Emma McKeon action

Emma McKeon Photo Courtesy: Simone Castrovillari

Matt Wilson bubble

Matt Wilson Photo Courtesy: Simone Castrovillari


  1. avatar

    girls = women

  2. avatar

    Good piece.
    Ian – “Girls”. Perhaps ladies or women would be better. We old men need to lead the way and you’re a communication expert.

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