'Too smug': Aussie swimming officials dragged over relay error

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·Sports Reporter
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Emma McKeon and Ariarne Titmus watch on during the womens' 4x200m freestyle relay at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Emma McKeon and Ariarne Titmus watch on during the womens' 4x200m freestyle relay at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Australian swimming officials have been accused of being too smart for their own good by making too many changes to the 4x200m relay team which won bronze on Thursday.

The quartet of Ariane Titmus, Emma McKeon, Madison Wilson and Leah Neale finished behind surprise winners China and silver medallists U.S.A., who shot past the Aussies after a powerhouse final leg from Katie Ledecky.

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All three podium finishers beat the previous world record mark, but some observers felt the Australian team had done themselves no favours by tinkering with the line-up between the semi-final and final.

None of the four Australian swimmers in the final had raced in the heats or semi-final, Neale selected only for relay but not taking to the pool until the final, where she was curiously asked to anchor the team.

Australia were forced to bring Neale in since the team would have been disqualified from the final without her, as she was only named on the team for the relay.

Many pondered why it was her, rather than form swimmer Titmus, tasked with bringing the swim home against a bone fide swimming legend in Ledecky.

Sports writer Emma Greenwood wrote on Twitter that the Australian team had counted their eggs before they'd hatched.

"Major Aussie relay stuff-up that smacks of arrogance," she wrote. 

"Officials decided that one was in the bank before the final. Aim is not to have 8 swimmers win medals. It’s to put the best 4 form athletes in the race. 

"Poor Leah Neale shouldn’t have been left in that position."

Swimming legend and Channel 7 commentator Ian Thorpe said he was 'curious' as to the decision making behind the team composition, while journalist Jacquelin Magnay felt the Aussies were 'too smug' in their selections.

“Australia swim officials too smug thinking they had the 4x200m freestyle in the bag. Left the in-form heat swimmer in the stands.

“Australia gave Titmus the lead off leg thinking she could go for the world record; and Mollie O’Callaghan, fast in heats, was left out. Trying to give everyone a medal??”

Australia claims bronze in women's 4x200m relay

Titmus and McKeon collected their third medals of the Games - Titmus with golds in the 200m and 400m freestyles and McKeon gold in the 4x100m freestyle and bronze in the 100m butterfly.

About 95 minutes before the relay, McKeon qualified fastest for the individual 100m final and is also a chance for more gold in the medley and mixed relays to come.

Wilson wins her third Olympic career medal - she won gold as a heat swimmer in Australia's triumphant 4x100m freestyle team at the 2016 Rio Games, when she also took silver for swimming a heat in the 4x100m medley.

The 25-year-old Neale also won a silver in Rio, as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay team.

Speaking after the race, Titmus said she was pleased the team had beaten their previous world record mark, but admitted to a degree of disappointment with the result.

"It was really fast, we were under our previous World Record, it was a solid swim from us," she said on Channel 7.

"I would have liked to have done more for the team, I feel like I should have been better, but it's what I could do on the day and it's been a big couple of days.

"Happy to come away on the podium."

With AAP

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