China’s Sun Yang arrived in Rio looking to defend his gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle. But yang fell just short of a repeat in the event, with Australia’s Mack Horton holding off the reigning Olympic champion to win Australia’s first gold medal of the Rio Olympics. Horton, who posted the second-fastest time of the qualifying heats, finished the final with a time of 3:41.51 with Yang just 17 one-hundredths of a second behind at 3:41.68.
Winning the bronze medal was Gabriele Detti of Italy, who finished with a time of 3:43.49. He’s the first Italian to medal in this event since Massimiliano Rossolino won the silver medal in Sydney in 2000, and in total three Italians have won a medal in the 400 meter freestyle (Novella Calligaris, 1972). The United States failed to medal in this event, with Conor Dwyer finishing fourth with a time of 3:44.01 and Connor Jaeger settling for fifth place with a time of 3:44.16.
Dwyer posted the fastest qualifying time, earning the spots in lane four as a result, but he was unable to carry that performance over into the final.
Horton’s gold medal is the first in this event for an Australian swimmer since Ian Thorpe won gold in 2004, and his win is the latest development in a rivalry between he and Yang. More importantly the gold could be the start of a resurgence for Australia after they experienced significant disappointment in London four years ago. Australia’s lone swimming gold medal in London came in the women’s 4×100 meter freestyle relay.