The world record in the men’s 1500 freestyle nearly fell Saturday night. But while Sun Yang’s mark of 14:31.02 from four years ago still stands, there was no doubt who the class of the field was.
Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri fell off the world record pace over the final 100 meters of the race, but that wasn’t enough for any other swimmer to catch him for gold. Paltrinieri finished the race with a time of 14:34.57, nearly five seconds better than the time posted by silver medalist Connor Jaeger. The American finished in 14:39.48, which established a new American record in winning his first Olympic medal.
WATCH: Italy’s Paltrinieri takes gold in dominant fashion
WATCH: Men’s 1500 medal ceremony
Italy also took bronze, with Gabriele Detti finishing in 14:40.86. American Jordan Wilimovsky finished fourth with a time of 14:45.03.
WATCH: Team USA inspires Connor Jaeger’s medal-winning swim
During the afternoon session at the swimming venue there will be qualifying heats in four races including the shortest and longest of individual events (to be contested in the pool). The women’s 50 free preliminary heats being the day, with 100 free gold medalist Simone Manuel of the United States and London 50 free gold medalist Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands among those competing. Also competing will be sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell of Australia, with the latter entering the 100 free as the prohibitive favorite only to not even get onto the medal stand.
The men’s 1500 will be next on the schedule, with Americans Connor Jaeger and Jordan Wilimovsky among the competitors. 400 free gold medalist Mack Horton of Australia is also in this event, as is 400 free silver medalist Sun Yang of China. Yang won gold in this event in London four years ago, and silver medalist Ryan Cochrane of Canada is looking to get back onto the medal stand as well.
WATCH LIVE: Swimming Prelims (women’s 50 free, men’s 1500 free, women’s 4×100 medley, men’s 4×100 medley) — Noon Eastern
Also in the qualifying stages Friday afternoon are the men’s and women’s 4×100 medley relays, with the United States looking to extend its streak of Olympic gold medals in the men’s event to nine. The U.S. women are responsible for four of the last six Olympic gold medals in the 4×100 medley relay, with Australia winning in 2004 and 2008.
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.