Australian Mack Horton won the men’s Olympic 400 metres freestyle on Saturday (August 6), edging out defending champion Sun Yang of China as Australia set out to erase the memory of their disappointing swimming performance in London four years ago.
Gabriele Detti of Italy took bronze.
Horton, 20, was content to shadow Britain’s James Guy and Conor Dwyer of the United States for much of the race but forged ahead after 300 metres, made the final turn in the lead and held off Sun in the last 50 metres.
The 20-year-old is taking part in his first Olympics and will also compete in the 1,500 freestyle and 4×200 relay.
It was a dream start for Australia, a traditional swimming power who faltered badly in London, winning just one gold medal in the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay.
Dwyer, fastest in the morning heats, came fourth, with American Connor Jaeger fifth and Guy, the world silver medallist last year, fading to sixth.
London champion Sun was in tears after the race.
Sun won two golds at London 2012 and was the first Chinese male swimmer to win an Olympic title.
He has had problems out of the pool since London, serving a three-month ban in 2014 after testing positive for a banned stimulant and spending a week in jail for crashing a car while driving without a licence.
World champion Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden also had an impressive day in the pool, powering to an Olympic record time in the women’s 100 metres butterfly to book her place in Sunday’s (August 7) final.
Russia’s Olympic ban and China’s ruthless selection policy helped pave the way for Thailand’s Sopita Tanasan win the first weightlifting gold medal of the Rio Games in the women’s 48kg on Saturday.
Tanasan, daughter of an international boxer, became Thailand’s fourth gold medallist in women’s weightlifting with a total of 200kg.
China had the favourite for the contest in Hou Zhihui, who lifted 210kg in her national championships in April, but, being allowed to enter only four lifters overall, sent her home from their pre-Games training camp in Sao Paulo last week when they decided they had a better chance in the heaviest category, +75kg.
Hou injured her knee in July but thought she had recovered enough to compete. Wang Guoxin, head coach of China’s women’s team, opted instead to send for Meng Suping. He said the decision was influenced by Russia’s ban from Rio for “bringing the sport into disrepute” with their doping record.
Once that ban was confirmed last week it meant the hot favourite in the +75kg, Tatiana Kashirina, would not compete.
Tanasan, 21, won by 8kg from Indonesia’s Sri Wahyuni Agustiani. In third place was Japan’s Hiromi Miyake, the 2012 silver medallist who was competing in her fourth Games.
Great Britain’s women were successful against old rivals Australia in the hockey Pool B encounter.
Goals from Lily Owsley and Alex Danson were enough to edge out the unlucky Australians, who must now push on if they are to claim a medal for seventh Olympics in a row.
Australia defeated Britain 3-1 at London 2012 to claim bronze.