Olympics: Great Britain On Verge of Ending 109-Year Gold Medal Drought in 800 Freestyle Relay

Jul 27, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Tom Dean (GBR) celebrates after winning the men's 200m freestyle final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

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Olympics: Great Britain On Verge of Ending 109-Year Gold Medal Drought in 800 Freestyle Relay

Time for a little history lesson. Only twice during the Olympic Games has Great Britain claimed a gold medal in relay competition. The British men achieved the feat in 1908. Meanwhile, the British women came through in 1912.

Real soon, that century-plus drought might come to an end.

Relying on the quartet of Matt Richards, James Guy, Calum Jarvis and Tom Dean, Great Britain easily secured the top seed for the final of the 800-meter freestyle relay at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. That squad turned in a time of 7:03.25, which was well ahead of the 7:05.00 managed by Australia for the second seed. The third seed went to Italy in 7:05.05.

It is highly likely that Great Britain will break the seven-minute barrier during the final, as it will add firepower in the form of Duncan Scott when the medals are on the line. Hours removed from capturing the gold medal in the 200 freestyle, with countryman Scott the silver medalist, Dean was used in prelim duty by the British coaching staff to ensure another relay disaster did not occur. In the prelims of the 400 freestyle relay, with Scott sitting out, Great Britain placed ninth to miss the final by .03. By including Dean in the qualifying round, the Brits greatly cut down on their risk – not that there turned out to be concern.

Dean and Scott were both 1:44-low during the final of the 200 freestyle while Guy had a superb split of 1:44.66 during prelims. The only question is who fills the fourth spot – Richards or Jarvis. Regardless of what decision is made, Great Britain looks to have a squad that is untouchable.

Russia was fourth in 7:05.16 and the United States advanced in the No. 5 position after the foursome of Drew Kibler (1:46.12), Andrew Seliskar (1:46.17), Patrick Callan (1:47.12) and Blake Pieroni (1:46.21) combined for a time of 7:05.62. The 800 freestyle relay has been contested on 25 occasions at the Olympic Games, and the United States has medaled 24 times. The only time it didn’t was at the 1980 Games in Moscow, which the U.S. boycotted.

Although Team USA will bring in Kieran Smith and Townley Haas, a big question for the United States heading into the final will be whether Caeleb Dressel is added to the squad. The coaching staff, headed by Dave Durden, has the option to utilize any athlete on the roster, and if Dressel is viewed as a key component to chase a medal, his inclusion may be imminent. The dilemma, however, is Dressel’s hefty schedule and how much his use would affect the remainder of his events.

 

Men’s 800 Freestyle Relay

World Record: United States (Phelps, Berens, Walters, Lochte) 6:58.55 (2009)
Olympic Record: United States (Phelps, Lochte, Berens, Vanderkaay) 6:58.56 (2008)

Finalists

1. Great Britain, 7:03.25
2. Australia, 7:05.00
3. Italy, 7:05.05
4. Russia, 7:05.16
5. United States, 7:05.62
6. Switzerland, 7:06.59
7. Germany, 7:06.76
8. Brazil, 7:07.73

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