RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Britain came to the Olympics with high hopes and ended the swimming competition in the pool on Saturday with the country’s best medal haul in more than a century and a determination to make even bigger waves in Tokyo in four years’ time.
The combination of 100 metres breaststroke champion Adam Peaty, 200 freestyle world champion James Guy, Chris Walker-Hebborn and Duncan Scott took Britain to a silver medal in the 4x100 medley.
Only the U.S. men, with Michael Phelps winning his 23rd Olympic gold in what the great American has vowed will be the last race of his career, were faster.
Britain’s total of six medals in the pool — three each for the men and women — was their best performance since they won seven medals at the London Games of 1908. They also won six in 1912, but had only one gold, two silver and three bronze.
In Rio they won a gold and five silvers.
World record holder Peaty did his split in a phenomenal 56.59 seconds, faster than the world record of 57.13 he swam in the individual event last Sunday. Only the leadoff leg can be considered for world records in relays.
“Hopefully that’s a message to the rest of the world in four years time, where James and Duncan will be a lot more mature, a lot more muscle, and hopefully if Chris decides to go on he’ll be a lot faster,” said Peaty, 21.
“We’re looking at a very good relay coming together.”
In London four years ago, the British team won only three medals — one 200 breaststroke silver for Michael Jamieson and Rebecca Adlington’s two bronzes in the 400 and 800 freestyle.
Guy agreed a new generation had paved the way for much more future success.
“We’re 21, 20 and 19,” he said of the relay team. “The Americans are quite a bit older than us. We’re still young, growing lads. We’ve got so much more to work on.
“We’re a small country but up and coming. I think this is the best Olympics we’ve ever had.”
Peaty set the tone by smashing the world record with his first swim on his debut on the opening Saturday and then becoming the first male British swimmer to win an Olympic title since Adrian Moorhouse at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Jazz Carlin then won 400 and 800 freestyle silvers, beaten only by the incredible U.S. champion Katie Ledecky, and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor took silver in the women’s 200 individual medley.
The men’s relay team also took silver in the 4x200 freestyle, with Scott and Guy also in that final line-up.
“We came second tonight and it was a great race,” said Guy. “And there’s so much more to work on for what we’ve got to do.
“Tokyo’s going to be the one, I think.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury