Team USA swimmers clinch Olympic gold in men’s 400-meter relay

Team USA’s swimmers hugged and whooped for joy as they sealed gold in the Olympic men’s 100-meter relay final on Monday morning – after fellow favorite Katie Ledecky clinched silver in her race.

The four-man squad – Caeleb Dressel, Blake Pieroni, Bowen Becker, and Zach Apple – fought off strong challenges from Italy, Australia and France to win.

Team USA posted the fastest time on virtually every leg of the race to finish in 33:08.97, 1.14 seconds ahead of silver medalist Italy. Australia took the bronze medal in 3:10.22.

The victory marks the 10th time the United States has won gold in the 13 times the men’s 4x100m relay has been competed at the Olympic Games.

Minutes before the men’s team win, American swimming queen Ledecky‘s Olympic crown began to slip when she lost to Australia’s Ariarne Titmus by less than a second in a hard-fought 400-meter free-style final.

The quadruple Rio 2016 gold medalist could only manage silver after she lost the neck and neck battle to Australian rival Titmus by 67 hundredths of a second.

Ledecky had been leading for much of the race but Titmus slipped past the US champion in the neighboring lane in the final 50-meter to touch the wall a fraction of a second ahead.

Bowen Becker, Blake Pieroni, Caeleb Dressel and Zach Apple won gold in the 4x100-meter relay in Tokyo on Monday

Bowen Becker, Blake Pieroni, Caeleb Dressel and Zach Apple won gold in the 4x100-meter relay in Tokyo on Monday

Bowen Becker, Blake Pieroni, Caeleb Dressel and Zach Apple won gold in the 4×100-meter relay in Tokyo on Monday

Becker, Pieroni, Dressel and Apple of Team United States react after competing in the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final on day three of the Tokyo Olympics

Becker, Pieroni, Dressel and Apple of Team United States react after competing in the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final on day three of the Tokyo Olympics

Becker, Pieroni, Dressel and Apple of Team United States react after competing in the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final on day three of the Tokyo Olympics

Becker, Pieroni, Dressel and Apple exchanged hugs all around after taking home gold

Becker, Pieroni, Dressel and Apple exchanged hugs all around after taking home gold

Becker, Pieroni, Dressel and Apple exchanged hugs all around after taking home gold 

Katie Ledecky took home silver in the 400-meter freestyle on Monday in Tokyo

Katie Ledecky took home silver in the 400-meter freestyle on Monday in Tokyo

Katie Ledecky took home silver in the 400-meter freestyle on Monday in Tokyo

Ledecky (right) and Titmus (left) pulled well ahead of the pack by the first 200 meters

Ledecky (right) and Titmus (left) pulled well ahead of the pack by the first 200 meters

Ledecky (right) and Titmus (left) pulled well ahead of the pack by the first 200 meters

In the men’s race, Dressel gave the US the lead, swimming his first leg in a blistering 47.26. Pieroni and Becker kept the Americans out front before Apple turned in an anchor leg of 46.69 to leave no doubt.

Apple climbed from the pool to an embrace from Dressel, who is aiming for three individual golds in the 50m and 100m freestyle as well as in the 100m butterfly.

Dressel, of Gainesville, Florida, revealed his gold medal was in the possession of team mate Brooks Curry who swam the heats but not the final and will receive his medal later.

‘Brooks has got the medal. He has to hold onto it for me until he receives his medal,’ Dressel said.

He sat out Sunday’s qualifying heat and put his feet up.

‘I had the easiest job out there because last night I’ve got to watch it on TV.’

Apple, 24, who swam the important anchor leg, said: ‘It is easy with these guys are leading off, giving me a lead.

‘I love living in the pressure. It’s why we race. It brings out the best in us.’

After her race, Ledecky said she gave it her all, but her rival was too good for her.

‘I’ve had some tough ones over the years. It was certainly a tough race and I delivered,’ she said.

‘I couldn’t do much better than that. [It was] a tremendous race, a lot of fun.

‘I can’t be too disappointed. It was my second best swim ever [over 400-meter freestyle]. I felt like I fought tooth and nail and that’s all you can ask for.’

Ledecky followed in second place with less than a second difference after finishing in 3:57.36 minutes

Ledecky followed in second place with less than a second difference after finishing in 3:57.36 minutes

Titmus and Ledecky celebrate following an incredibly close race that saw Titmus take out first place in the last few meters

Ledecky said she gave it her all, but her rival was too good for her

Ledecky said she gave it her all, but her rival was too good for her

Ledecky said she gave it her all, but her rival was too good for her

Ledecky said the new Olympic champion Titmus outsmarted her.

‘She definitely swam a really smart race. She was really controlled up front. I felt smooth and strong. I looked up at 300m and she was right there so I knew it would be a battle to the end.

‘I didn’t feel like I died or really fell off. She just had a faster final 50m or 75m and got her hand to the wall first.’

The 24-year-old from California won four Rio 2016 gold medals with four victories in Rio 2016 in the 200m free-style, 400m free-style, 800m free-style and the 200m relay. Ledecky also won silver in the 100m free-style relay.

And she picked up gold at London 2012 in the 800-meter free-style.

Titmus and Ledecky dominated the 400-meter freestyle from the outset with both swimmers vying for first place.

The pair pulled well ahead of the pack by the first 200 meters with a 1.88 second difference between third place Canadian swimmer McIntosh and second-place Titmus.    

The American held the lead for the initial 300 meters but Titmus was watching her all the way, literally lurking at her heels.

The young Australian ominously surged closer and was just 0.16 seconds behind Ledecky with 100 meters remaining.

Titmus snatched victory away from her US rival Ledecky after recording 3:56.69 minutes

Titmus snatched victory away from her US rival Ledecky after recording 3:56.69 minutes

Titmus snatched victory away from her US rival Ledecky after recording 3:56.69 minutes

Titmus and Ledecky show dazzling sportsmanship congratulating each together following the intense 400-meter freestyle race

Titmus and Ledecky show dazzling sportsmanship congratulating each together following the intense 400-meter freestyle race

Titmus and Ledecky show dazzling sportsmanship congratulating each together following the intense 400-meter freestyle race

Titmus then reeled in her rival in a perfectly-executed race plan to win by half a body-length in a time of three minutes 56.69 seconds. 

Ledecky touched home in 3:57.36 and China’s Li Bingjie was well back in third position in 4:01.08.

Titmus and Ledecky will also square off in a much-hyped 200-meter freestyle battle, though the American is favored to win their duel over 800-meter. 

Team USA has thus far claimed 12 medals – five gold, three silver and four bronze. 

Golds went to sharpshooter Will Shaner, fencer Lee Kiefer and Anastasija Zolotic in taekwondo. Meanwhile, Chase Kalisz triumphed in the men’s 400-meter individual medley.

Yet the US men’s basketball team suffered a shock 83-76 defeat at the hands of France on Sunday, losing at the Olympics for the first time since 2004 and for just the sixth time in the history of the tournament. 

Simone Biles also had a rare off day on Sunday as Team USA failed to win a qualifying round for the first time since 2010 and finished second behind Russia.  

Biles was left long faced after a shaky performance which saw her penalized on both floor and vault as her team finished on 170.526, behind their rivals on 171.629.

Yet she remains on track to win six Olympic golds after successfully qualifying across all individual and team competitions, despite taking a backwards tumble after a botched dismount on the uneven bars.   

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