The Roar
The Roar


5 days to Rio: When Australia smashed America like guitars

Michael Klim (second from left) swam a blistering opening leg to set up Australia's famous victory. (Image: YouTube/Australian Swimming)
31st July, 2016

The United States of America were the favourites. They were supposed to win the 4×100 metre freestyle relay, but a young Australian team anchored by Ian Thorpe would take home the gold medal in world record time, surprising everyone on the global stage.

The USA were favourites with good reason as well. They had won every single 4×100 at the Olympics since 1984 – that meant 1984 in Los Angeles, 1988 in Seoul, 1992 in Barcelona and 1996 in Atlanta.


With Gary Hall Junior anchoring the US team after being involved in the success of 1996, the US team would confirm their favouritism position by qualifying fastest by nearly two seconds. Australia might have been second, but that time gap surely seemed like too much to be able to catch up.

Hall Junior famously announced that his team would smash Australia ‘like guitars’ before the Olympics, which no doubt provided extra motivation for the Aussies.

Michael Klim might not have swum in the heats, but he made all the difference come the final putting Australia on a world record pace from the outset, stopping the clock on his hundred metres at 48.18. Australia had .61 of a second advantage at the end although during the second and third legs they would lose most of that lead.

Chris Fydler and Ashley Callus were fast, but simply no match for the US duo of Neil Walker and Jason Lezak as Australia entered the final 100 metres with a lead that read just .25 of a second, with daylight between the leading pair and the rest of the field.

Enter Ian Thorpe.

One of the greatest sporting successes Australia has ever seen would play out as the ‘Thorpedo’ went up against Hall who had already won two gold medals in Atlanta, along with a couple of silvers.


Thorpe, in front of his home crowd with the country watching on would lose just .06 of a second during the final 100 metres, meaning he still held the lead by .19 of a second and brought gold home for Australia in an incredible display.

Thorpe would go onto have an incredible career, but this was the springboard he, and Australia, needed in the pool.

Be sure to follow The Roar as we look back on some of the most memorable moments in Olympic history – be they weird and wacky or brilliant and significant – and count down the days until the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.

The Roar’s countdown to the Rio Olympics

50 days to go: Australia’s first Olympian, Edwin Flack
49 days to go: Brazil capitulate at the 2012 Olympics
48 days to go: Blood in the water during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics
47 days to go: Daniel Carroll, the man who won rugby gold with Australia and America
46 days to go: Margaret Abbott – the golfer who didn’t know she had won gold
45 days to go: Where did all the amateurs go?
44 days to go: Australia’s oarsome foursome
43 days to go: When Korea stood as one
42 Days to go: Oscar Swahn, the oldest Olympian
41 days to go: Edith Bosch – the Olympian not known for her medals
40 days to go: Jane Saville’s heartbreaking Sydney Olympics
39 days to go: Herb Elliot dominates in Rome 1960
38 days to go: Teofilo Stevenson, the boxer who might have beaten Ali
37 days to go: Betty Cuthbert steals the show in Melbourne
36 days to go: Jesse Owens’ heroic performance in Berlin
35 days to go: Eric the Eel steals Sydney’s heart
34 days to go: What happened to Cassius Clay’s gold medal?
33 days to go: Australia’s equestrian brilliance at Barcelona
32 days to go: The Olympic sports which are no longer with us
31 days to go: Debbie Flintoff-King wins on the line
30 days to go: The dominance of basketball’s Dream Team
29 days to go: Nadia Comenaci scores gymnastics’ first-ever perfect score
28 days to go: The man who stopped for a duck
27 days to go: The upset of the Sydney Olympics
26 days to go: Murray Rose’s scintilating Melbourne performance
25 days to go: Greg Louganis’ heroic comeback win
24 days to go: Fencing turns to duelling in Paris
23 days to go: Dawn Fraser’s flag-stealing shenanigans
22 days to go: The most prolific Olympic competitor
21 days to go: Duncan Armstrong’s underdog win in Seoul
20 days to go: Johnny Weissmuller: A brilliant swimmer and Hollywood actor
19 days to go: Majorie Jackson – the Lithgow Flash
18 days to go: Larisa Latynina, the most successful female Olympian
17 days to go: Dimitrios Loundras, the child who won an Olympic medal
16 days to go: Roy Jones Jr is robbed of an Olympic gold
15 days to go: Shane Gould’s superstar performance in Munich
14 days to go: The Kookaburras finally fly to the top of the world
13 days to go: Matthew Mitcham’s historic dive
12 days to go: Even Olympians are prone to the odd fail
11 days to go: Abebe Bikila wins the Olympic marathon running in bare feet
10 days to go: Track cycling’s greatest rivalry
9 days to go: Kieran Perkins’ gold medal from lane eight
8 days to go: Sally Pearson’s awesome run in London
7 days to go: Mark Spitz’ perfect seven gold medals in ’72
6 days to go: Usain Bolt torches the field in Beijing
5 days to go: Michael Klim and Ian Thorpe help smash America’s 4x100m world record like a guitar
4 days to go: Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ defiant black power salute
3 days to go: Michael Phelps – the best to ever grace the Olympics
2 days to go: Cathy Freeman delivers with the weight of a country on her back
1 day to go: Ian Thorpe – Australia’s finest Olympian