Wellingtonian Lewis Clareburt ran out of steam over the final lap of the Olympic men’s 400m individual medley final today and missed out on the medal his supporters had hoped for.

Clareburt swam brilliantly in his heat to qualify second fastest for the final and mark himself as a strong medal contender.

Swimming in lane 5 in the final, the 22-year-old held second place entering the final 50m. But his closing 50m of the freestyle leg was the slowest of anyone in the field and he eventually trailed in seventh.

Clareburt was solid in the opening butterfly leg, and raced through the field during his favoured backstroke. At the halfway point of the race he held a decisive .34s lead over favoured American Chase Kalisz, with the rest of the field strung out behind.

In the third leg, the breaststroke, Clareburt hung on grimly while Kalisz turned in a fantastic performance.

Going into the final 100m, Kalisz had the gold medal locked up, but Clareburt looked a strong medal prospect. He was labouring a little but still a clear second.

Unfortunately, with the minor medals up for grabs in the sprint for home it was Clareburt who faltered. He faded over the final 50 minutes and his time of 4min 11.22s was good enough only for seventh, disappointing given he swam 4min 09.49s in his heat.

Kalisz won in 4min 09.42s, followed by fellow American Jay Litherland, 4min 10.28s, and Australian Brendon Smith, 4min 10.38s.

Clareburt finished 1.80s behind Kalisz.

Except for Kalisz, the times in the final were remarkably slow, with only the winner breaking the 4min 10s barrier. Perhaps the fact that swimmers at these Olympics are having to swim in reverse order, with the heats at night and the finals the following morning, was one factor.

Clareburt said the swim had been “tough”.

“I swam the first 300m the way I had to, but the last 100 hurt more than what it should have. I’m usually good on the last 100, but it just fell on top of me today.”

He said the fact that the times were so slow hurt more. “If I’d just done my heat time that would have been good enough. That last 100 let me down.”

Clareburt said he found it hard swimming the final in the morning. “I find it difficult in the morning. I tried to put myself in a good position to swim fast, but just couldn’t.”


Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games Lewis Clareburt Swimming
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