Australia

McKeon breaks Olympic 100 freestyle record, Titmus to challenge for third gold

Australia’s Emma McKeon has sent a warning to her rivals in the women’s 100 metres freestyle after setting an Olympic record in the heats in Tokyo.

And Australia has qualified fastest for the women’s 4x200m freestyle final on Thursday morning, giving McKeon and Ariarne Titmus the chance of winning more gold at the Games.

McKeon, already a gold and bronze medallist in Tokyo, showed why she is the favourite in the eyes of many observers to win the 100m freestyle with a blistering time of 52.13 — a personal best — in her heat.

She broke the three-day-old Olympic mark of 52.62 held by world record holder Sarah Sjostrom, who swam the time when leading off Sweden’s 4x100m freestyle squad in Sunday’s final, which was won by Australia.

McKeon, who swam 51.35 on the fly when helping Australia win the gold, will be joined by relay teammate Cate Campbell in the 100m freestyle semi-finals.

Campbell won her heat in 52.80 to be the fourth-fastest qualifier for Thursday morning’s semi-finals.

McKeon was competing two days after she finished third in the 100m butterfly final.

“I’m pretty happy with that,” McKeon told Channel Seven after her heat.

“An Olympic record is pretty cool. But I guess I had yesterday off and this morning off, so I think it freshened me up a bit.”

McKeon had arrived in Tokyo with the fastest pre-Games time of the year (52.19), while she beat Campbell in the 100m freestyle final at last month’s Olympic trials in Adelaide.

Campbell, a three-time Olympic relay gold medallist, is chasing her first podium finish in the 100m freestyle.

More Tokyo gold for Titmus

She placed sixth in Rio in 2016 when she was the firm favourite, having set a world record in the build-up to the Games.

Campbell won a bronze medal in the 50m freestyle as a 16-year-old at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Meanwhile, McKeon and Titmus will be added to Australia’s 4x200m freestyle line-up for Thursday morning’s final.

Both were rested from Wednesday night’s heat, with Titmus having won her second gold medal of the Games in the 200m freestyle final earlier in the day.

Australia, the world champions in the 4x200m freestyle, won its heat in 7:44.61, with Mollie O’Callaghan, Meg Harris, Brianna Throssell and Tamsin Cook booking its spot in the final.

Tamsin Cook dives in the pool during Australia’s 4x200m freestyle heat.(

AP: Martin Meissner

)

The Australians hold the world record in the event with a time of 7:41.50. They will also have Madi Wilson — eighth behind Titmus in the 200m freestyle final — and Leah Neale available for the relay decider.

In other results, Australia’s Mitch Larkin reached the men’s 200m individual medley semi-finals but countryman Brendon Smith was surprisingly eliminated in the heats.

Smith, who won bronze in the 400m individual medley earlier in the Tokyo swimming program, swam 1:58.57 to place second in his heat in the shorter event.

He was 22nd fastest overall in the heats, missing the top 16 by 0.42.

Larkin, seventh in Tuesday’s 100m backstroke final, clocked 1:57.50 to win his heat and be the ninth-fastest qualifier for the medley semi-finals.

Jenna Strauch and Tristan Hollard safely progressed to the respective semi-finals of the women’s 200m breaststroke and men’s 200m backstroke.


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