Team GB’s week in the swimming pool just keeps getting better. Their men’s 4x200m relay didn’t just win the event, they dominated it, and set a new European record. The quartet of Tom Dean, James Guy, Matthew Richards, and Duncan Scott won the gold in a time of 6min 58.8sec, which was just three-hundredths off the world record set by Michael Phelps’ USA team back in 2009. It was Great Britain’s first gold medal in the event since 1908, and it also snapped one of the longer winning streaks in Olympic swimming – it was the first time since Sydney 2000 that anyone has beaten the USA in this event.
The Russian Olympic committee took silver, and Australia bronze. The USA came fourth. No coincidence, it is also the first Olympics since 2000 when they have not had Phelps and Ryan Lochte in their squad. With Great Britain in this form, it might not have made much difference if they had.
The win also made Dean, who swam the lead-off leg, the first British man to win two gold medals in the swimming pool at the same Games since that same Olympics in 1908 (but the second swimmer – Becky Adlington did it at Beijing in 2008). It is an extraordinary achievement for a man who lost seven weeks of winter training because he was suffering with Covid. Dean, the new Olympic 200m champion, actually turned in the slowest of the four legs here. Great Britain were trailing the USA’s when he touched the wall, but Guy swam brilliantly, and they took the lead midway through his leg.
Guy had watched Tuesday’s 200m freestyle final from a spot in the stands, and started crying as he watched Dean and Scott win it in a one-two. Guy had finished fourth in that event at Rio in 2016, and said afterwards that he was overcome with joy when his training partner, Dean, won the gold here. That reaction said plenty about the bonds between the men on the relay team. Guy and Scott go back a long way, too, they’ve been swimming this event together for the best part of the last decade now, and were both on the team that won the silver medal behind the USA at Rio in 2016.
Guy was crying again now, for himself this time, as he watched Scott streak home in a final leg of 1min 43.45, the fifth-fastest split in history. Scott now has a gold to go with his three Olympic silvers, and he still has three more events left to compete in this week.