That’s Chalm-ing: Kyle Chalmers ends Australia drought with storming Olympic Games 100m freestyle win

The 18-year-old became the first Australian to win the title since Mike Wenden in 1968, while there was also a breakthrough for Kazakhstan’s in the pool in Rio de Janeiro

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 1:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 3:48pm

Kyle Chalmers, Australia’s newest sprint freestyle sensation, won the Olympic Games 100m freestyle gold in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday to end his country’s 48-year drought in swimming’s prestige event.

The 18-year-old stormed home to win in a junior world record of 47.58 seconds, ahead of Belgian silver medallist Pieter Timmers’ 47.80secs with 2012 gold medallist Nathan Adrian of the United States third in 47.85secs.

Meanwhile, Australia sprint star Cameron McEvoy, who established himself as the man to beat with a sizzling 47.04secs in April, was relegated to seventh in 48.12secs.

It was an electrifying Olympic debut for Chalmers, who ducked under the 48-second mark for the first time in Tuesday’s heats.

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He became the first Australian to win 100m free gold since Mike Wenden in 1968. Since then three Australians had finished second – Mark Stockwell in 1984, Eamon Sullivan in 2008 and James Magnussen in 2012.

“I actually had no idea about that,” Chalmers said, adding that he was more inclined to follow basketball and football than swimming as a spectator.

Chalmers made the turn in seventh as Italy’s Santo Condorelli led ahead of Adrian.

But he made his move along with Timmers, who was fifth at the 50m mark to seize the win in a mass finish.

Amid the euphoria, he had a thought to spare for McEvoy.

“I don’t want to celebrate too much because I know it would have been really hard for him tonight,” he said. “But I’m sure towards the end of the week I’ll be a bit more excited.”

As Chalmers put Australia back where they’ve long felt they belonged on the podium, Dmitriy Balandin was putting swimming on the map in his home country after claiming Kazakhstan’s first Olympic medal in the sport a gold in the 200m breaststroke.

Balandin, swimming in lane eight, overhauled early pacesetter Yasuhiro Koseki of Japan at the final turn to win in 2:07.46.

American Josh Prenot, who came into the Games at the top of the 2016 world rankings, was second in 2:07.53 and Russia’s Anton Chupkov was third in 2:07.70.

“I’m very proud to win Kazakhstan’s first medal and make history for my country,” said the 21-year-old from Almaty. “They will probably be celebrating right now back in Kazakhstan!”

Spain’s Mireia Belmonte-Garcia rallied to win the 200m butterfly, improving on the silver she earned in London.

She caught front-running Australian Madeline Groves at the 150m mark, and finally got past her to touch in first in 2:04.85, just three-hundredths of a second in front.

Reigning world champion Natsumi Hoshi of Japan clocked 2:05.20 to match the bronze medal she claimed in London.

It was right around midnight when a US team anchored by Katie Ledecky capped the action with a victory in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay.

Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith, Maya DiRado and Ledecky clocked 7:43.03 to grab the gold ahead of Australia’s Leah Neale, Emma McKeon, Bronte Barratt and Tamsin Cook, who touched in 7:44.87.

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Canada’s Katerine Savard, Taylor Ruck, Brittany MacLean and Penny Oleksiak earned bronze in 7:45.39.

Michael Phelps continued his quest for a fourth straight 200m individual medley gold after beating old foe Ryan Lochte in their semi-final to lead the way into Thursday’s final, where Brazil’s Thiago Pereira and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino will be out to crash the US duel.

Phelps, whose emotional 200m butterfly triumph on Tuesday was one of two golds that took his career tally to a remarkable 21, touched in 1:55.78.

Admittedly still tired, Phelps was nonetheless looking forward to a final showdown with world record-holder Lochte, who has taken two silvers and a bronze behind Phelps in the last three Olympics.

“We’ve been racing for the last 12 years and having one more battle tomorrow will be fun,” Phelps said. “We’ll have one more time to hop in the pool and duke it out.”