TOKYO — For the first time since 1992, the American men have lost a backstroke race at the Olympic pool.
Russian swimmers swept the top two spots in the 100-meter back Tuesday in Tokyo, with Evgeny Rylov claiming the gold medal in 51.98 seconds and teammate Kliment Kolesnikov taking the silver in 52.00.
Defending Olympic champion Ryan Murphy settled for the bronze in 52.19.
“Winning an Olympic gold medal means you’re the best in the world,” Murphy said. “Being third in the world is no slouch.”
It was the first backstroke defeat for the U.S. men at the Olympics since the Barcelona Games. They won 12 straight golds at the past six Olympics, including Murphy’s sweep of the 100 and 200 back at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
But the streak finally ended at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
It was a good morning for Australia and Britain.
World record-holder Kaylee McKeown gave the Australian women another gold medal with a victory in the women’s 100 backstroke, setting an Olympic record.
Her winning time of 57.47 was just off the world mark she set this year of 57.45. The silver went to Canada’s Kylie Masse in 57.72, while former world record-holder Regan Smith of the United States settled for the bronze at 58.05.
Coming into the Olympics, Australia had not won an individual women’s title since 2008. Now it has two, with McKeown’s gold coming after Ariarne Titmus’ victory Monday in the 400 freestyle.
“My legs were definitely hurting with the last 20 to go,” McKeown said. “I’m sure it would have been pretty noticeable on the TV. But you know I’ve trained for that and I knew I had a really strong backend and a really good chance to be on the podium.”
Britain went 1-2 in the men’s 200 freestyle. Tom Dean captured the gold in 1 minute, 44.22 seconds, while teammate Duncan Scott picked up the silver in 1:44.26. The bronze went to Brazil’s Fernando Scheffer at 1:44.66.
Dean’s victory was even more remarkable considering he has twice been stricken with COVID-19 during the buildup to the Games.
“It was quite tough,” he said. ”It was tough having a lot of time out the water. And obviously it requires a slow buildup because of the nature of the disease. So it’s tough and it was a very bumpy ride this season.”
American Kieran Smith settled for a sixth-place showing after capturing a bronze in the 400 free.
Defending 200 free champion Sun Yang was banned from the Tokyo Olympics for a doping violation. He is serving a more than four-year ban, though he could be eligible to return for the 2024 Paris Games.
Titmus and Katie Ledecky both advanced to Wednesday’s final of the 200-meter freestyle, setting up another showdown after their thrilling race in the 400 free.
Titmus was the top qualifier in the 200 semis at 1:54.82, while Ledecky — the defending Olympic champion — cruised to the third-best time in 1:55.34. Titmus will be looking for her second straight gold after rallying to beat Ledecky in the 400 free.
Ledecky had a relatively easy day compared to Monday, when she raced three times for a total of 2,100 meters.
“I was still a little tired the last 15,” Ledecky said, “but I felt like I had good control of the heat.”
She’ll have another big morning Wednesday, when she competes in the finals of the 200 free and the 1,500 free — her shortest and longest events — about a hour apart.
“It’ll be a good challenge,” Ledecky said. “It’s been fun to train for both of them.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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