The United States was left off the podium in the 4x200-meter swimming relay for the first time in the history of the Games, except for the Moscow event, in which it did not participate due to the boycott. In a historic evening, the American quartet did not withstand the combined surge of sprinters from Great Britain, Russia and Australia, respectively gold, silver and bronze in the Tokyo final. With a sublime brand. The 6 minutes 58.58 seconds set by the British Tom Dean, James Guy, Matthew Richards and Duncan Scott are set as the best time ever achieved with a textile swimsuit, just three hundredths of the record set by Phelps, Berens, Wlters and Lochte inlays in rubber overalls during the hectic 2009 World Cup in Rome.
It was precisely Michael Phelps who sounded the alarm. "I am tremendously surprised that Dressel does not swim in the final of the 800 relay," he said on NBC. “He's probably the best 200 free swimmer in the world. Leaving him out will make winning the relay much harder. "
Installed in Tokyo to attend the competition, the best swimmer of all time expressed his concern about the drift that drags the United States team in what, so far, are being its most mediocre Games. He did it when on Wednesday morning in Tokyo the list of the components of the 4x200 relay of the American team was published: Kieran Smith, Drew Kibler, Zach Apple and Townley Haas. The test was an hour away and Caeleb Dressel was not on the payroll. Dressel had just finished swimming the 100 freestyle semifinals, the first test of the morning session, with an excellent time of 47.23s, further improved by the Russian Kliment Kolesnikov, who had made the best European record of all time: 47, 11s. A bad omen.
Phelps's hunch materialized in disaster. One of the greatest collective failures in the history of swimming in the United States in a mythical event due to its Olympic tradition and its strategic significance. If, as coaches have repeated so many times, the Olympic 4x200 free relay serves to measure the health of a country's swimming, the pandemic has thrown one of the sports most practiced by Americans in uncertainty.
The director of the US swim team, Alex Dawson, and the head coach of the men's team, Dave Durden, are in deep trouble. His decision to remove Dressel from a highly prestigious event responds to various risk calculations in a landscape in which, after four days of competition, the times displayed by the swimmers turned the cards face up. First, the technicians had to calibrate that, considering the times of Great Britain, Australia and Russia, without Dressel they would suffer to get on the podium. Second, if they included Dressel, they would neither secure gold in the 4x200 nor allow the team's best sprinter to compete with maximum guarantees of winning his gold in Thursday's 100 free final.
"We spent a lot of time talking about this," Durden said.
"We looked at the calendars, we evaluated the impacts, we thought about everything and decided what is best for the team and for Caeleb in order to win as many medals as possible."
The 100 free, the most legendary of the Olympic swimming races, appears like a hornet's nest in the Tokyo swimming pool.
The tremendous mark of Kolesnikov (47.11s), the time of Alessandro Miressi (47.52s), the surprising appearance of the South Korean Sunwoo Hwang (47.56s), and the threat of the reigning champion, the Australian Kyle Chalmers (47.80s ), they force Dressel (47.23s) to swim under an unknown pressure to hang a gold that until a couple of months ago everyone took for granted and now it is uncertain.
"Do not think"
"You see that I don't think about the competition," Gregg Troy commanded Lisbeth Beisel during the Rio Games. Then Beisel, a veteran of three Olympics, acted as the sprinter's babysitter at the command of his coach. Dressel was 19 years old and had a history of stress panic attacks under pressure that took its toll in the final of 100. He finished sixth.
The pressure of being the absolute favorite, the only man who has fallen below 47 seconds in a textile swimsuit, puts Dressel in a desperate position on the threshold of 100 free. Forced to save an Olympic prestige that was supposed to him but not yet earned, and forced to save America's swimming after the biggest shipwreck in its long history. Britain's gold and silver in the 200 free box on Tuesday heralded a certain danger, reflected in the rise of a nation that until a decade ago was nothing short of irrelevant at the great swimming concert. Britain's entire delegation to Japan, including all sports, had four golds on Tuesday, at a rate unknown in its Olympic history.
What happened this Wednesday in the pool confirms an upward trend.
Duncan Scott's mark in the last 200 of his team, 1m 43.45s the fastest of the entire contest, sums up the level of the feat.
None of the components of the American 4x200 relay that broke the 2009 record swam their pole below 1 minute 44 seconds.
Attest to this Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, pillars of the team that made history in those World Cups in Rome and that chained four successive Olympic golds in Athens, Beijing, London and Rio.
to our special newsletter about the Tokyo Games