Camillo Cametti, FINA Media Committee Chairman from Italy

The first of the 8-day long swimming program, that got underway yesterday in the magnificent Olympic Aquatics Stadium (a perfect stage and theater for both the athletes and the public) reasserted two unwritten and empiric but golden rules of Olympic sport: the first, retaining the title is not, and has never been, an easy feat; the second, to win a gold medal, and even to climb on the podium, a personal best – which sometimes may coincide with an Olympic or even a World record – is often required.

The first day told us also that those who have been riding the waves in the latest two or three years are more likely to perform well here in Rio de Janeiro. Let us recap and comment some highlights.

Katinka Hosszu (HUN)

The mighty 21-year old British breaststroker Adam Peaty sent a strong message to all navigators: a world record in the preliminaries in 57.55, down 0.37 secs from his previous world record of 57.92 set in London on 15 April 2015 and the best qualifying time for the final told enough about his chances of being the next Olympic champion. Defending champion Cameron van der Burgh, who four years ago won in London with the time 58.46, should pass the scepter to Peaty but still hold a place on the podium.

Unable to retain the titles have already proved three Asians: the two Chinese who stunned at London 2012, Yang Sun, 24, who in the 400m freestyle final was beaten by Australia’s Mack Horton, and Shiwen Ye, the winner of the women 400 IM in London in a world record time of 4:28.43, who collapsed to the 27th place in the prelims, with a time of 4:45.86, about 17 seconds slower than that of four years before. Out of medal contention, in the 400m freestyle, also Korea’s Tae-hwan Park who had won gold at Beijing 2008 and silver at London 2012, but could only collect the tenth place in the preliminaries here in Rio.

Mack Horton (AUS) ©Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia

Horton won in 3:41.55, a personal best, 13 hundredths ahead of the Chinese, enough to obscure Sun, whose winning time in London was of 3:40.14. Horton’s time was not an Australian record, which still belongs to Ian Thorpe with 3:40.08 (from Manchester 2002). In this event, to the surprise of many, Italy’s Gabriele Detti won the bronze medal in 3:43.43, a personal best for the second time in the day (he had done it also in the prelims when he qualified for the final with the third fastest time, 3:43.95).

Personal best and third time ever for Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, the winner of the men’s 400m IM in 4:06.05 (from 4:07.61). Only Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have set faster times.
Best times, of course for the other two world record setters of the day: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, gold medallist in the women 400m IM with 4:26.36 (in the prelims she clocked 4:28.55, just a tiny fraction of a second shy of Ye’s world record); Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay, gold medallist in 3:30.65 (after setting an Olympic record in the prelims with 3:32.39).

Kosuke Hagino (JPN) ©Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia

Among those who are unlikely to retain the title there is USA’s Dana Vollmer,28, the winner of the 100m butterfly in London with 55.98. She has practically no chances of beating the explosive Swedish Sarah Sjostrom, who in the semis, with 55.84, set an Olympic record, just 0.20 shy of her world record she set las year at Kazan World Championships.