Athens flashback – South African Shock

As August 2014 rolls around there’s a lot of nostalgia about the Athens Olympics. One of the most incredible races of that meet was the Men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay final, where South Afica pulled off a huge shock, taking the gold medal in a world record time.

To mark 10 years of that achievement, South African news site EWN tweeted the recollections of anchor leg swimmer Ryk Neethling “as live” as he relived the events of that night. He recalled the race as follows:

Roland Schoemann was the only lead off leg swimmer to break 49s – his split of 48.17 was a second ahead of second placed Italy. Ian Crocker for the US had a stinker, splitting 50.05 and leaving the Americans last at 100m.

Lyndon Ferns was second in, consolidating the lead with a 48.13 split. As Darian Townsend enters the water the picture is changing for Neethling on the anchor.

Townsend did what was asked of him, splitting 48.96 and sending Neethling into the water with a sizeable lead.

South Africa set a new world record of 3:13.17, taking half a second off the existing Australian mark they’d set winning the event in Sydney. Behind him, Pieter van den Hoogenband split a barely credible 46.79 to haul the Netherlands into the silver medal position and relegating the US to bronze – the second shock of the night.

Here’s the race as called on US television.