Our Australian women have made a massive statement to the world and became part of history on day one of the 2016 Olympic Games.
The 4x100m relay team of Cate and Bronte Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Emma McKeon smashed the world record and continued their dominance of the event, which has seen Australia win three gold medals and a bronze in the past four Olympic Games.
It was an historic victory in many ways.
Cate Campbell, who swam a brilliant last leg, emulates Dawn Fraser by medalling in the 4x100m relay in three successive Olympic Games.
And McKeon, whose brother David is in the Olympic team became the first member of a family rich in national swimming talent to win an Olympic medal.
Her father Ron McKeon, coach of the Australian open water swim team here in Rio, swam at the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games and won four Commonwealth Games gold medals. Her mother Susie was a Commonwealth Games swimmer and her brother, Rob Woodhouse, swam at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, winning bronze in Los Angeles in the 440m individual medley.
The women’s record medal run in the relay event began in 2004 with a team of Alice Mills, Libby Lenton, Sarah Ryan, and Jodie Henry gaining the gold medal.
At Beijing in 2008 Cate Campbell combined with Mills, Melanie Schlanger and Lisbeth Trickett for a bronze medal while in 2012 in London the Campbell sisters, Elmslie and Schlander combined for victory.
Tonight’s heroes have out-stripped the achievements of the Dawn Fraser-led assault of 1956-64 that saw Australia medal in three successive Olympics with a gold and two silvers, taking the medal run to four. Those teams were Fraser, Faith Leech, Sandra Morgan, Lorraine Crapp who won gold in Melbourne in 1956; Alva Colquhoun, Fraser, Crapp, and Ilsa Konrads who won silver behind USA in Rome in 1960 and Robyn Thorn, Janice Murphy, Lynette Bell and Fraser who were second to the Americans again in Tokyo in 1964.
McKeon led Australia out and was a close second behind American Simone Manuel after the first 100 metres. Elmslie then took on the USA’s Abbey Weitzeil and maintained second position before the Campbell sisters took over – and were never going to be headed.
Bronte Campbell went past against Dana Vollmer in a great swim and reeled her in before sister Cate Campbell gave the Australians a convincing victory before a rousing crowd against American rival Katie Ledecky to record a world record of 3:30.65.
Canada won the bronze medal.
The world dominance of the relay girls, on the night Mack Horton opened up Australia’s gold rush with victory in the 400m freestyle, is obvious but with it came the pressure to perform. And on the biggest state in sport, that can often bring the best of the best down.
Cate Campbell alluded to the expectation around them when asked to compare the victory to the one of four years ago.
“This one is different because it was expected and it’s a whole lot harder to do something when it is expected,” she said.
“I am so incredibly proud of all the girls I am standing next to; they all did an incredible job; we stood up we performed to the best anyone has ever done before and that is something incredible special in itself … and we came away with a gold medal and world record.”
There was plenty of emotion around the win too with Elmslie missing the world championships last year and putting her career on hold while she fought a breast cancer scare at age 21. She had regained fitness and focus to win her second Olympic gold medal.
“It has been a long four years but I wouldn’t change any of it; it has made me the person I am today,” she said.
“I’m thankful for the hardships so you can enjoy moments like this. They mean a lot more.
“It means a lot more than the gold medal four years ago. I have been through a lot personally and I’m really proud of myself to get myself back here and race for Australia and race with these girls and do the best.”
Elmslie swam in front of her father and boyfriend who flew into Brazil yesterday. While she gave them a wave on the way to the podium she was yet to see them.
“I hadn’t seen them yet and we have been away three weeks so it was pretty special and I can’t wait to catch up with them soon,” she said.
Maddi Smith is also a gold medallist after playing her role in the heat win in place of McKeon who was rested to concentrate on her 100m butterfly heat.