Host City: Sydney, Australia
Venue(s): Sydney International Aquatic Centre, Olympic Park, Sydney, New South Wales
Date Started: September 16, 2000
Date Finished: September 16, 2000
Perhaps with only the exception of [Cathy Freeman]’s victory over 400 metres in track in field,
the 4 x 100 metres freestyle relay epitomized the Sydney Olympic Games to the people of Australia.
This was an epic struggle between the best swimming nations in the world and, at least for the home nation, ended in a victory of epic proportions. The background to the race was fairly clear – the US always wins this race at the Olympic Games but this time Australia had a quartet of high quality and their most recent, at the 1999 Pan-Pacific Championships, had resulted in a rare win for the Aussies.
Before the Games things even got a bit personal between the two teams as the USA’s [Gary Hall, Jr.] predicted that his team would “Smash the Aussies like guitars”.
In the final [Michael Klim] got the Australians off to the best possible start by breaking the world record for the 100 metres freestyle on the opening flag. The second and third legs followed the same pattern as the USA chased down Australia and took the lead only to lose that lead before the changeover. The big guns took to the pool on the anchor leg with Hall facing [Ian Thorpe] to resolve the dispute. Once again American started quickly and pulled out a gap on his rival but Thorpe was relentless in the chase and, with the crowd whipped up into frenzy, took the lead with five strokes left and held on record a memorable victory. Needless to say both teams smashed the existing world record. In celebration and noting Hall’s comment, [Michael Klim] played air guitar to the Australian fans.