Anna Hopkin anchors Great Britain to Olympic relay gold, world record
TOKYO – Arkansas alum Anna Hopkin anchored the British mixed 4×100 medley relay to a world record victory with a 52.00 second freestyle split to earn gold in an event being held in the Olympics for the first time.
Winning in a time of 3 minutes, 37.58 seconds, Great Britain bettered the previous world record of 3:38.41 set by China in 2020. China finished as silver medalist in 3:38.06 while Australia claimed bronze in 3:38.95. The United States, with Caeleb Dressel splitting 46.99 on anchor, placed fifth in 3:40.58.
On facing the task of swimming an anchor freestyle leg against Dressel, who set an Olympic record (47.02) in the 100m freestyle, Hopkin noted: “I knew he was coming at me, but there’s just so much going on there’s no point looking at anyone else, I just knew I was not going to lose that lead.
“It’s pretty cool to say I beat Caeleb Dressel.”
Joining Hopkin on the relay were Kathleen Dawson (58.80 backstroke), Adam Peaty (56.78 breaststroke), and James Guy (50.00 butterfly) as they combined to make history in the inaugural staging of the relay in the Tokyo Olympics.
Each team had the option to choose which male or female swam each of the strokes involved in the medley relay. That created a scenario where various teams either led the competition or were in medal positions throughout the race.
The United States and Italy shared the lead following the backstroke opening leg, with Italy maintaining its lead after the breaststroke, while USA dropped to sixth. China, meanwhile, moved from third to second during that leg.
The British were sixth after the opening leg, then fourth following the second leg. They moved into first place on the butterfly leg, giving Hopkin a sizeable lead for her role on the anchor leg. China maintained its hold on second place and Italy was third heading into the final leg, with Australia fourth and the Americans in eighth.
“I was just trying not to think about how far ahead we were from there, because it’s irrelevant when you’re in the water, you’ve just got to race,” stated Hopkin, who was referred to as “the Bullet” by teammate Guy during a post-race interview.
“When I turned, I saw I still had a good bit of water in front of me and I just went for it. It’s an amazing feeling, I’m so privileged to be part of this team,” said the sprinter, who opted not to swim in the 50m freestyle event to focus on the medley relay.
Hopkin finished seventh in the 100m freestyle earlier in the week, posting a time of 52.83 in the final. She opened with a 52.75 in the heats, which was third fastest overall for the prelims, then had a 53.11 in the semifinal to secure the final position advancing to the final.
As a member of the women’s 4×100 freestyle, Hopkin split 53.16 on the lead-off leg as Great Britain set a national record of 3:33.96 in placing fifth in the final. In the prelims, Hopkin split 52.65 on the second leg as the team won the heat in a then British record of 3:34.03.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images Sport