04/03/2024

Meg Harris (L), Emma McKeon (C), Bronte Campbell (R) and Cate Campbell (not pictured) won Australia's first gold at Tokyo. (Photo: AUS Olympic Team/Twitter)

Australia's 4x100m women's freestyle relay swimmers brought home the first gold of Tokyo 2020, and set a new world record doing it.

Ever reliable and always inspirational in the pool, the Australian women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team took home our first gold of the Games.

The Aussie team broke the world record set by Australia previously by .36 seconds at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. They finished three seconds ahead of silver medallists Canada and bronze medallists the USA.

Bronte Campbell led off the team, followed by debutant Meg Harris who found the lead for the Aussies. Emma McKeon put on an incredible third leg, and Cate Campbell swum truly home as the anchor.

The Inner Sanctum takes you through the path the Australian team took to gold.

Tokyo 2020 path to gold: The Heats

The Australian relay team swam in Heat B on Saturday night, with Madi Wilson and Mollie O’Callaghan taking the place of McKeon and Cate Campbell.

Australia qualified with the fastest time of either heat at 3:31:73, nearly two seconds ahead of the Netherlands, who ultimately failed to podium. Great Britain won Heat A with a time of 3:34:03.

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Harris finished with the fastest split of the Aussies with a 52:73, Campbell anchoring excellently just behind with a 52:82.

The Netherlands were the strongest finishers, anchor Femke Heemskerk the only swimmer to break the 52-second mark at 51:90. O’Callaghan had the fastest start, getting the Aussies in first early with a 53.08.

Our Athletes

Madi Wilson

We would be remiss to not mention the swimmers that got Australia into the position to win gold in the first place.

Wilson is competing in her second Olympics, after hitting the pool for the 100m backstroke in Rio. She made it through the heats but didn’t make much of a splash in the final, finishing eighth. She’s no stranger to the relay however, part of the 4x100m medley relay at Rio that qualified in the heats.

She’s competing in just one other event at Tokyo 2020 in the 200m freestyle. The heats begin tonight at 8:05PM AEST.

Wilson has won a total of 32 FINA medals, including eight golds. Three of those have come in the World Championships, and she received a silver for her part in the qualifying at Rio.

Wilson in the pool, competing in backstroke. (Photo: Australian Olympic Committee)

Mollie O’Callaghan

O’Callaghan has become a gold medallist at just 17, the youngest Australian in Tokyo.

This was the only event she was slated to compete in, so she’ll spend the rest of her time in the Olympic Village celebrating and supporting her fellow Aussies.

A key part of the Heat B win which put Australia in the box seat to secure gold, O’Callaghan looks like she has a bright future ahead of her.

She’s quite a balanced athlete, having won junior FINA gold medals in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly.

Bronte Campbell

Despite Tokyo being her third Olympic Games, it’s hard to believe that this gold is just Campbell’s second ever Olympic medal.

At London 2012, she swam in the 50m freestyle alongside sister Cate. They both qualified through to the semi-final, but ultimately not making it through for the chance to challenge on the podium.

Rio 2016 saw her make waves in the 4x100m freestyle relay for the first time, part of the gold medal winning team that set the world record. She did, however, fail to reach the podium in the 50m and 100m freestyle, despite being the reigning world champion in these events.

Bronte Campbell | Australian ... | Australian Olympic Committee
Campbell (second from left) with Olympic gold in 2016. (Photo: Australian Olympic Committee)

Campbell has also claimed golds in a number of Swimming World Championships, most recently in the 4x100m medley relay and the 4x100m freestyle relay in 2019.

The relay was the only event for Campbell at Tokyo.

Meg Harris

First Olympics, first gold. The dream has already come true for the 19-year-old from Queensland.

She performed excellently in the relay final, with the fastest time of the whole team as she demonstrated her incredible freestyle technique.

Freestyle is Harris’ speciality, winning a silver and two bronzes at the World Junior Swimming Championships in Budapest in 2019. She also competes in backstroke and butterfly, in any distance between 50 and 200m.

Like teammate O’Callaghan, Harris’ career in the pool has only just started. Expect great things from the youngster in freestyle in the future.

Emma McKeon

McKeon has gotten off to a strong start in her Tokyo campaign, consolidating the lead over Canada in her swim in the third leg.

It’s been a busy weekend for her in the pool, also qualifying through to the 100m butterfly final after a tense heat on Saturday night.

She finished equal first with a time of 55:82, tying with China’s Zhang Yufei in a last-ditch sprint to the finish.

Her semi-final result of 56:83, a touch over a second slower than her heat, sees her qualify for tomorrow’s final in lane three. She’ll be going head to head in a rematch with Yufei, as well as world record holder Sarah Sjöström from Sweden.

McKeon’s busy schedule doesn’t end there, searching for a spot in the 50m and 100m freestyle finals as well. She features in heat 6 on Wednesday night for the 100m, and heat 10 on Friday night for the 50m.

She’ll be looking to add to her five-medal strong cabinet for the remaining swimming days at Tokyo, now boasting two golds, two silvers and a bronze.

Cate Campbell and Emma McKeon embrace after qualifying for the Australian Swimming Team
Cate Campbell and Emma McKeon embrace after qualifying for Tokyo. (Credit: Twitter/Swimming Australia)

Cate Campbell

What is there to say about Cate Campbell that hasn’t been said already?

She’s competing in her fourth Games, she was named the Olympic flagbearer alongside basketball star Patty Mills, and now she’s brought home Australia’s first gold of Tokyo.

It’s been a journey that’s only shot further skywards for Campbell since her double bronze debut at Beijing at just 16.

Campbell has now broken another world record in the relay, still holding the 100m freestyle short course record over Sjöström.

She’s once again proved herself as a true leader and inspiration to all Australians, and will be hoping to drape a few more medals over her neck in the coming week.

Campbell will swim alongside McKeon in the 100m and 50m freestyle on Wednesday and Friday night, in hopes to see an Aussie-filled podium come the finals of both events.

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