Australia has been upset by England in a massive boilover in the men’s 4x100m medley relay on Thursday morning (AEST).
Aussie star Kyle Chalmers had to come from behind in the final leg, but with a brave victory in sight he was tipped in the lunge to the wall by just 0.08 seconds.
Chalmers swallowed England’s Tom Dean in the first 50m as he played catch-up from a significant gap – and it may have come back to bite him as Dean steadied in the final 25m.
In a heartbreaking twist for Chalmers, Ian Thorpe noticed the Commonwealth 100m freestyle champion may have been blind as he went into the wall being unable to see his English opposition.
Chalmers was famously caught at the wall by just 0.06 seconds in the final of the 100m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics last year. Thorpe at the time said Chalmers could have been impacted in the final stages of the race because he was breathing on the side looking away from gold medallist Caeleb Dressel.
Now Thorpe says it may have happened again.
“If we were in a different lane and he could see what was going on it may have been a different result,” Thorpe said on Channel 7.
“Very, very similar to what happened in the 100m freestyle at the Olympic Games.”
Chalmers swam more than 0.5 seconds quicker than Dean in the final leg, but it just wasn’t enough.
Scotland took the bronze medal.
Bradley Woodward kicked things off for Australia in the backstroke leg as he and his English counterpart remained neck and neck in the opening 100m.
Individual breastroke gold medallist Zac Stubblety-Cook was next in the water but England’s James Wilby exploded and gave the hosts a half-a-body length lead at the halfway mark.
Australia faced a 0.75 second deficit when Matthew Temple dived in, going head-to-head with English superstar James Guy and when it came time for Chalmers to strut his stuff, the green and gold were trailing by 0.56 seconds.
The 24-year-old pulled out a blistering 46.86 second split but it wasn’t enough to reel in Dean, who held on to claim an emotional gold medal for England.
In Tokyo, Chalmers qualified sixth-fastest for the individual 100m freestyle final, meaning he started in lane seven. After he was pipped for silver, Thorpe said it cost him big time.
“Nothing he could have done, in the lane that he was in, could have been better,” Thorpe said. “Had he been in a different lane, the outcome may have changed. That’s all that can be said. You can’t change that.”
Thorpe predicted before the race Chalmers, who breathes on his right side, would find it difficult because in the stretch home he would only be looking at France’s Maxime Grousset in lane eight, rather than Dressel and the rest of his competition for gold in the middle of the pool.
“Look, the concern that I have for Kyle Chalmers is traditionally, he breathes on his right-hand side, which means on the way down, he will be able to see the rest of the field into Caeleb Dressel ... which will help get him out in a faster split in the first 50,” Thorpe said.
“He needs to be out faster than he was in the semi-final. If he continues to breathe on his right he won’t be able to hunt them down in the same way as he would normally, because he will be looking at Maxime Grousset in lane eight.”
After the race Chalmers admitted beginning in lane seven and not being able to check on Dressel’s progress at the back end was an extra hurdle.
“It’s a bit more challenging being on the outside. I have to swim my own race from start to finish and be breathing the other way on the way home,” Chalmers said.
Dressel knew Chalmers was coming home with a bang. “I could actually see him in my peripherals, I knew he was right there,” he said.
“I couldn’t see him, but you can see disturbances in the water. I knew — who else would it be besides Kyle?”