By David Williams
Dan Jervis finished fifth in his first Olympic final as Great Britain ended their most successful swimming campaign in Games history.
Swansea swimmer Jervis dug in for a gritty performance that ended with him finishing outside the medals, with a time of 14:55.48 that was some way short of his personal best as well as the 14:48.67 that earned him a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
But the 25-year-old Swim Wales athlete from Resolven should feel proud and encouraged by placing so near to medals at his maiden Olympic Games.
Bobby Finke added to USA’s medals collection by winning gold, Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk secured the silver while Florian Wellbrock of Germany took the bronze.
Finke came from behind in the closing stages to take gold with an astonishing last 50m in just 25 seconds, while Jervis made sure the bunched four swimmers ahead of him did not get too far out of sight in the second half of the race.
The Swansea Aquatics man, who trains under coach Adam Baker and Swim Wales performance director Ross Nicholas, was pleased with a semi-final swim that saw him fifth-fastest into the final – and Jervis remained in touch with the leading medal contenders over the opening 500m.
As the top four began to move clear over the second 500m, Jervis had to remain disciplined in his own race, sticking well to his stroke rate and technique to ensure he held off the rivals behind him and registered a solid result on the biggest occasion of his career to date.
Team GB are now celebrating their best ever Olympic medal haul in the swimming with four golds, three silvers and a bronze.
Britain’s eight swimming medals – including gold for Welsh pair Matt Richards and Calum Jarvis in the 4x200m relay – eclipsed their previous best tally in the pool of seven gongs, set at the London Games 113 years ago.
Richards and Jarvis were part of a record tally of six Swim Wales athletes at the Games.
As well as their gold medal effort, Alys Thomas reached the final of the women’s 200m butterfly, while Harriet Jones gained valuable experience in the heats of the 100m butterfly as did Kieran Bird in the men’s 400m freestyle, before Jervis’s fifth place finish in his final.
Great Britain’s James Guy completed a hat-trick of medals in the last event of an incredible week as he teamed up with Luke Greenbank, Adam Peaty and Duncan Scott to win silver in the men’s 4x100m medley relay with a new European record of 3:27.51.
British Swimming’s head coach Bill Furness says the improvement on the sport’s Olympic performance has been based on hard work and the careful managing of elite performance across the UK.
“We have done a lot of work on culture and belief,” said Furness.
“We have done a lot of work on educating our coaches and I think we now have some of the best coaches in the world.
“We have a really good team around each athlete in terms of sports science support and we have raised the bar.
“So we have made qualification standards a lot higher and a lot tougher, but at the same time the athletes have risen to that challenge.
“It has been the combination of a lot of factors, but the main thing is belief.”