Double joy for US, Canada in blue-riband dead heat

American Simone Manuel and Canadian Penny Oleksiak celebrating after both clocked 52.70sec for joint first place in the 100m freestyle - the first time this has happened in the glamour event since 1984.
American Simone Manuel and Canadian Penny Oleksiak celebrating after both clocked 52.70sec for joint first place in the 100m freestyle - the first time this has happened in the glamour event since 1984.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

RIO DE JANEIRO • Canadian Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel of the United States were inseparable at the finish and even more united in joy, after a stunning 100 metres freestyle dead heat rewarded both with Olympic gold on Thursday.

Both women, one 16 (Oleksiak) and the other 20 and very much part of a new wave in swimming, touched the wall in 52.70 seconds as the crowd gasped at the times flashing on the scoreboard.

Sarah Sjostrom, the Olympic 100m butterfly champion who took the bronze in 52.99 sec, was astonished.

"I think that was a big shock. Everyone had to watch the result many times before we understood what happened... the biggest surprise so far in this competition," the Swede said.

It was the second time the women's 100m freestyle had ended in such a fashion - the 1984 Los Angeles Games saw a tie between Americans Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer in 55.92 sec.

"It's amazing to tie for gold. I never thought I'd win. She deserves it as much as me," said Oleksiak, the first athlete born in the 21st century to claim an Olympic gold in an individual event.

"I'm only 16 so it's pretty insane to win a gold medal in your first Olympics."

She was only seventh at the turn but powered back on the final 50m with a frenzied, head-down final 15m to the wall.

Manuel's first gold also comes at her first Olympics. But it carried a special resonance as she became the first African-American woman to win gold in an individual Olympic swimming event.

"I'm super glad that I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport. But at the same time I would like there to be a day where there are more of us and it's not Simone 'the black swimmer'," she said. "Because the title 'black swimmer' makes it seem like I'm not supposed to be able to win a gold medal, I'm not supposed to break records.

"That's not true because I work just as hard as anyone else and I love the sport and I want to win just like everybody else."

There was disappointment for Australia's Campbell sisters, with world champion Bronte finishing fourth (53.04sec) and world record-holder Cate (53.24), leading in world-record time at the turn but fading at the finish to sixth.

"I've always said that I didn't need a gold medal to have self-worth and I guess that that's being put to the test at the moment," said Cate.

London Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands finished fifth (53.08).

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2016, with the headline 'Double joy for US, Canada in blue-riband dead heat'. Print Edition | Subscribe