Tokyo Flashback: Zac Stubblety-Cook Strikes Australia’s Fifth Gold In 200 Breaststroke in Olympic Record Time

Jul 28, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Izaac Stubblety-Cook (AUS) after the men's 200m breaststroke semifinals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
GOLDEN BOY: Zac Stubblety-Cook blasted his way to Australia's fifth gold medal of the Tokyo Games - striking the first gold medal for the men's team. Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports.

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Tokyo Flashback: Zac Stubblety-Cook Strikes Australia’s Fifth Gold In 200 Breaststroke in Olympic Record Time

Jul 29, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Izaac Stubblety-Cook (AUS) celebrates his gold medal during the medals ceremony for the men's 200m breaststroke during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

One year has passed since the Olympic Games, delayed by a year due to COVID-19, unfolded in Tokyo. To celebrate what went down in the Japanese capital, Swimming World is revisiting the championship finals – each on their one-year anniversary – by once again running the stories that were posted after the medals were decided.

Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook has continued the Dolphins golden run at the Tokyo Games striking the swimming-mad country its fifth gold medal in the pool at these Games in the men’s 200m breaststroke.

Stubblety-Cook timed his trademark big finish to perfection to snatch the gold in a new Olympic record time of 2:06.38 (29.35;1:01.72; 1:34.17)

The 22-year-old from Brisbane kept his nerve to produce the performance of his life with a powerful final 50 metres, recording his own slice of Olympic glory.

Stubblety-Cook charged in and out of the 150m turn to pop the question to the leaders before pushing into top gear that has made him the boy to watch in the lead up to these Games.

“I was happy with the way I pulled it off. I knew that there would be a few people going at it from the start. I knew someone could go out, hold out and no-one could see him (from an outside lane),” said Stubblety-Cook.

Zac Stubblety Cook action 3

ZAC ATTACK: A super-charged Zac Stubblety-Cook charages towards his gold medal in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy:

“Today, I’m just happy to execute my race plan and do what I do best. You can only be an underdog once and I had that luxury today. It was an experienced field, but I stepped it up through the heat and the semi. It was quite exciting to know I had more to give. I’m happy to be here but even happier with the result.”

Dutchman Arno Kamminga, silver behind Adam Peaty in the 100m final, tried desperately to hang on but had no answer to the Australian’s “thunder thrust” hanging on to take the silver in 2:07.01 (28:14; 1:00.09; 1:32.98)  with Finland’s Matti Mattsson the bronze in 2:07.13 (28.96; 1:00.85; 1:33.35. – his country’s fifth swimming medal and replicating the bronze medal won by fellow countryman Arvo Aaltonen in Antwerp in 1920.

Stubblety-Cook’s final 50m split of 32.21 sealed the gold with Kamminga splitting 34.03 and Mattsson 33.78.

Jul 29, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Arno Kamminga (NED) holds up his silver medal after finishing second in the men's 800m freestyle final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports

SILVER LINING: Arno Kamminga, shows off his second silver medal of the Games. Photo Courtesy: Grace Hollars/USA Today Sports

“Amazing, it feels really good,” Kamminga said. “It was a difficult race. I knew I could be first or eighth. I needed to be at my very best. It was one of my best races ever, under the Olympic record, and Izaac was just a little better in the end.”

“It was extremely good, I can’t believe that this is true,” Mattsson said. “This is the main goal of my career and my season, and I knew I could get a medal here, so I put all my effort in. Now it is totally unbelievable, something completely different to all the previous championships.”

Stubblety-Cook’s time took 0.84 off Ippei Watanabe’s 2016 Olympic mark from Rio.

Two-time-world champion and world record holder Anton Chupkov was only just out of the medals in 2.07.24 – 1.12 outside his 2019 world mark.

The Vince Raleigh-coached Stubblety-Cook becomes only the third Australian to win Olympic gold in the 200m breaststroke – behind the late John Davies from Helsinki in 1952 and Ian O’Brien who won the last time the Olympics were staged in Tokyo in 1964.

Ian O'Brien and Zac

GOLDEN LINK: An ecstatic 1964 Tokyo gold medallist in the 200m breaststroke Ian O’Brien watched 2020 Tokyo winner  Zac Stubblety-Cook emulate his feat from lockdown in Sydney. Photo Courtesy: Ian O’Brien/Hanson Media.

O’Brien, still a mad swimming fan, watched the race “in Covid lockdown” on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with his wife Kerry and daughter Shona saying: “From what I have seen of Zac and I have followed him closely, he was always going to win that race with his powerful back end.

“I’m so proud of him and brings back so many amazing memories of 57 years ago in Tokyo….congrats ‘Zaco’….you did it mate.”

O’Brien, now a spritely 74, employed similar tactics to Stubblety-Cook, claiming Russian Georgy Prokopenko in the last five metres some 57 years ago, to set a new world record of 2:27.8.


The boy from Wellington, a country town in NSW, was coached by Australian swimming and coaching legend and world record holder, the late Terry Gathercole, who was sixth in the 1960 Games in Rome and went on to become the Australian Head Coach and president of Smith Australia.

O’Brien remembers the day he won gold some 57 years ago.

“It didn’t sink in really until I walked out for the fi al and saw the scoreboard saying Olympic final, 200m breaststroke; I had broke the world record in training a few times, and I think I had the others worried, including Prokopenko,” recalled O’Brien.

“But just like Zac, I too left my best till the final stages, only taking the lead in the last five metres.”


GOLDEN MEMORY: Ian O’Brien back in 1964. Photo Courtesy: Olympic Gold (Robin Poke and Kevin Berry)

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

  • World record: Anton Chupkov, Russia, 2:06.12 (2019)
  • Olympic record: Ippei Wantanabe, Japan, 2:07.22 (2016)
  1. Zac Stubblety-Cook, Australia, 2:06.38
  2. Arno Kamminga, Netherlands, 2:07.01
  3. Matti Mattsson, Finland, 2:07.13
  4. Anton Chupkov, Russia, 2:07.24
  5. Nic Fink, United States, 2:07.93
  6. James Wilby, Great Britain, 2:08.19
  7. Ruyua Mura, japan, 2:08.42
  8. Erik Persson, Sweden, 2:08.88
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monika gross
monika gross
2 years ago

So proud of you proud to be an OZZIE ?? Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie Oy Oy Oy ?

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