Team GB have secured their first ever one-two finish in an Olympic swimming event for 113 years, with Tom Dean beating Tokyo room-mate Duncan Scott to gold by 0.04 sec in a dramatic finale to the men’s 200m freestyle.
After the excitement of Magic Monday, the gold rush continued early on Tuesday morning with the swimmers adding their second gold medal of the Games to take Team GB’s tally to four after only four days of Olympic competition. It makes it the best ever start to a summer Olympics.
Dean had twice contracted Covid-19 earlier in the last year, including a “very severe” infection in January, and the 21 year-old's extraordinary victory also makes him the first British man to win an individual freestyle swimming event since Henry Taylor at the London Olympics way back in 1908.
The last male freestyler to win a medal of any kind had been David Davies with his 1,500m bronze in 2004 but, having turned well behind South Korea’s Sunwoo Hwang, who had reached 100m at world-record pace, the two Britons powered through in the last 50m to clinch a shock gold-silver finish.
Dean and Scott both set personal bests in the process, with the 21-year-old University of Bath mechanical engineering student now joining swimming legends Mark Spitz, Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps in the list of 200m freestyle champions. He finished in 1min 44.22 sec to also surpass Scott’s national record.
Brazil’s Fernando Scheffer came through for third, within half a second of the two Britons, while Hwang paid for his blistering start and faltered badly down the final length to finish more than a second behind in seventh.
Following Adam Peaty’s back-to-back golds in the 100m breaststroke - the first time that feat has been achieved by a British swimmer - Team GB are now well on course to record their most successful ever post-war swimming performance at the Olympics.
The swimming team have not had two gold medallists at an Olympics since 1912 and it is also the first time that Team GB have reached four golds after four days of a summer Olympics. “It sums up our depth and strength to get a one-two,” said Scott. “We have high expectations because of how good the team is. The relays are also looking good - it’s really exciting - and there are plenty more individual opportunities. It’s a good thing that we're always asking for more.” Dean and Scott are staying in the same Olympic Village apartment and seemed genuinely thrilled to have shared their podium moment to the sound of the God Save Queen inside the Tokyo Aquatics Arena.
“Its a dream come true to have an Olympic gold around my neck, to go one-two with another Brit on the podium, what more could you ask for?” said Dean.
“Duncan and I are great mates - he’s a class act. I have looked up to him for a long time - he has been at the forefront of 200m freestyle and plenty of other events for so long. To share a podium with him is amazing.” Dean, who comes from Maidenhead and trains in Bath, had only been considered an outside medal chance after setting a two-second personal best at the British Olympic trials earlier in the year and qualifying fifth fastest for the final.
Scott, who graduated from the University of Stirling last month, had come into the Olympics with the fastest time in the world this year at 1min 44.47 sec and qualified fastest for the final. He admitted that he was already playing the race over again in his mind, and that there were things he could have done better, but was still pleased with a personal best and silver. “I’m buzzing for Deano, he’s had a really strange 18 months with Covid twice and a monster PB at trials but to see him move it on again and win gold is phenomenal,” said the 24 year-old. “Our best possible outcome is 1-2. I’ve been on several teams with Deano, we get on really well, whether that’s playing cards, watching films together. We’re mates outside of the pool first and then we’re competitors as well. It was a dogfight - it came right down to the finish - and I think Deano swam a great race. Fair play to him.
“It was great to see him get emotional, it means a lot to anyone, but for him, with what he’s been through this year.”
Barring no qualification problems, both Scott and Dean are also going in the 4x200m relay where Team GB will be favourites to combine for another gold on Wednesday.
Scott was the swimmer who took a very public stand at the 2019 World Championship and refused to share a podium with the disgraced Chinese winner Sun Yang in the same 200m freestyle event.
“You’re a loser, I’m a winner,” shouted Yang, as he collected his gold to Scott’s bronze.
Yang is now serving a four-year doping ban. And Scott, with Dean, was standing on the top step of the Tokyo Olympic podium.