Dimitriy Balandin made history for Kazakhstan when he won a tight men’s 200m breastroke final at the Olympics Aquatics Centre last night.
“I think the whole of Kazakhstan will be drinking tonight,” Balandin said after the historic race.
There were also gold medals in the pool for Spanish swimmer Mireia Belmonte in the women’s 200m butterfly, for Kyle Chalmers of Australia in the men’s 100m freestyle, and later for the USA team in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Trailing Australia going into the last leg, swimming superstar Katie Ledecky soon clawed back the gap and eased to victory.
“I have never smiled more before, during or after a race,” Ledecky said afterwards.
In the men’s 200m breastroke, Balandin beat silver medallist Josh Prenot, of the USA, by seven-hundredths of a second in a time of two minutes and 7.46 seconds. There was less than a second separating the first seven swimmers. And, Balandin, in lane eight, was actually the slowest of all the qualifiers.
“This is the biggest honour and the biggest thing I could have given to my country,” said Balandin.
“I’m very proud of that. Actually, it’s history, because it’s the first medal in swimming for Kazakhstan and I’m very happy that I’m the one that got it.”
After taking silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Spanish swimmer Mireia Belmonte went one better in the women’s 200m butterfly final at Rio 2016. She pipped Australia’s Madeline Groves, the fastest qualifier, three-hundredths of a second. Natsumi Hoshi of Japan took bronze.
“Winning an Olympic medal is a very special thing,” Belmonte said.
“A gold is my dream and now it’s come true.”
Australia took gold in the men’s 100m freestyle, when Kyle Chalmers beat off competition from Belgium’s Pieter Timmers and the defending champion USA’s Nathan Adrian, who took bronze.
In the last event of the late evening session, team USA, Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith, Maya DiRado, and Katie Ledecky, won the 4x200m freestyle relay. Australia took silver and Canada the bronze.