North Korea has been formally suspended from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics by the IOC as punishment for refusing to send a team to the Tokyo Games citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia’s women’s 4x100m freestyle team is on course for a fifth Olympic gold medal in the event and third in a row after its ‘B team’ blitzed the field and threatened the world record as Olympic swimming started Saturday.
Astonishingly, their time was the fourth fastest on record in the event. Australia broke a world record to win gold five years ago in Rio and set it again in 2018. With none of Saturday’s quartet of 17-year-old Mollie O’Callaghan, Meg Harris, Madi Wilson and Bronte Campbell – guaranteed a start in the final the record of 3:30.05 could easily fall.
The Aussies cruised confortably to 3:31.73 on Saturday night. Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell should return to the lineup for the final. Wilson and Harris would be expected to join them on trials form but Bronte Campbell’s 52.82 split – the second fastest behind Wilson – puts her in the frame for a place in the final.
There were no medals on offer in the first night session of the Games. Because of United States television preferences, heats are in the evenings at 8pm AEST and finals are in the mornings at 10.30am AEST, as they were in Beijing 2008.
Australia’s Olympic debutant Brendon Smith broke an Australian record to progress as the fastest qualifier for Sunday’s final of the 400m individual medley in the first event on the program.
Se-Bom Lee had the honour of being the first Aussie into the pool, finishing second in the second heat of the 400m IM, but missed the final.
Wollongong’s Emma McKeon had a bizarre dead heat to qualify equal first in her first event of the program – the 100m butterfly.
— 7Olympics (@7olympics) July 24, 2021
— Tony Harper (@toneharper) July 24, 2021
McKeon was well ahead of China’s Yufei Zhang but a relaxed final stroke by the Aussie saw them dead heat with 55.82 seconds. Brianna Throssell finished 16th to qualify for the semis.
Later, two more Aussies were involved in a dead heat with each other in the 400m heats.
Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin, swimming side by side in the final heat, heat the wall together at 3:45.20. They walked a fine line into the final, by qualifying equal fourth.
What a finish ????
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“I was feeling a bit of pressure,” said Winnington, who knocked out Mack Horton at the trials. “Yesterday I was nervous about making the final. That’s the first time I’ve raced a 400m internationally. I did the job and I’m in a good lane so I’m excited. It was all about the process.”
How tonight’s running order unfolded
Men’s 400m individual medley heats
The top 8 times qualify for the final on Sunday.
Aussies: Brendon Smith (heat 4), Se-Bom Lee (heat 2)
Lee was Australia’s first into the the Olympic pool. He came second in heat 2 but his time of a tick of 4:15 after fading in breaststroke means he will miss the final. Smith was superb on the final leg and his time of 4:09.27 was the fastest of all qualifiers.
Women’s 100m butterfly heats
Aussies: Emma McKeon, Brianna Throssell.
16 advance to semifinals.
Emma McKeon was the equal fastest qualifier through to the semifinals with her dead heat with China’s Yufei Zhang. Throssell was 16th.
Men’s 400m freestyle heats
Top 8 make final
Aussies: Elijah Winnington, Jack McLoughlin.
The pair were inseparable to qualify in equal fourth for Sunday’s final. Germany’s Henning Mühlleitner was the fastest through to the final at 3:43.67.
Women’s 400m individual medley heats
Aussies: None entered
Men’s 100m breaststroke heats
Aussies: Zac Stubblety-Cook, Matt Wilson.
Top 16 make semis.
Wilson was 22nd of 26 in 1:00.03 with his compatriot 24th in 1:00.05. The world record holder Adam Peaty of Britain qualified fastest with 57.56.
Women’s 4x100m freestyle heats
The Aussie B team featured 17-year-old Mollie O’Callaghan, Meg Harris, Madi Wilson and, in her only event Bronte Campbell. None of them are guaranteed a place in the final for Australia’s world record holders, but the 3:31.73 time was the fourth fastest time in history.