‘So close but so far’ – Max Litchfield reflects on another fourth at an Olympics

Litchfield came within 0.21 seconds of becoming Team GB’s first medallist at Tokyo 2020.

David Charlesworth
Sunday 25 July 2021 06:20
Max Litchfield missed out on a podium spot at Tokyo 2020 (Adam Davy/PA)
Max Litchfield missed out on a podium spot at Tokyo 2020 (Adam Davy/PA)

Max Litchfield reflected ruefully on another heartbreaking fourth-place finish at an Olympics.

Litchfield came within 0.21 seconds of becoming Team GB’s first medallist at Tokyo 2020, pipped to bronze in the men’s 400m individual medley final by Australia’s Brendon Smith as the United States bagged a one-two finish.

Chase Kalisz collected gold and Jay Litherland scooped silver while Litchfield clocked four minutes and 10.59secs – the exact same time as Hungary’s David Verraszto – five years after just missing out on a podium place in Rio

Max Litchfield narrowly missed out on an Olympic podium once again (Adam Davy/PA)

“It is (gutting) – you summed it up,” said the visibly distraught 26-year-old from Pontefract. “So close but so far. It is what it is. We’ll go back and look at what we can do better.

“I’ve done everything I can these last five years, just not quite enough. I don’t think there was too much wrong. Small things, we’ll go back and look at how we can do things better.”

Litchfield, whose younger brother Joe will also take to the pool at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre over the next few days, only squeaked into the showpiece after qualifying with the slowest time.

He made a sluggish start and was seventh after the butterfly leg but improved his position gradually, only to be edged out at the last. Asked whether he has done enough to earn a relay spot, Litchfield was uncertain.

“I don’t know,” he added. “Maybe 4x200m but that will depend on the team – hopefully the guys can go in there and smash it in the heats. We’ll see. I have to go back and focus as if I am doing that. If not, I’m done.”

Aimee Willmott finished seventh in the women’s 400m individual medley final (Joe Giddens/PA)

Aimee Willmott finished seventh in the corresponding women’s final in what is her third and last Olympics, her time of 4mins 38.30s more than six seconds behind Yui Ohashi, who claimed hosts Japan’s second gold of the Games.

There was some speculation the swift turnaround between Saturday evening’s heats and Sunday morning’s finals may have inhibited all swimmers and Willmott admitted her preparation for her Olympic swansong was far from ideal.

“I had a doping test which was a bit of a nightmare as well by the time I got back and rested. The team in the British camp were great, I got fuel and got to bed at about 12:30am,” said the 28-year-old Teessider.

“Coming back this morning I woke up and I was excited and not worrying too much about the outcome, I just tried to get out there and race and my body wasn’t as fresh as I wanted it to be, but I just kept fighting.”

While she was unable to crown her career with an Olympic medal, she was delighted at reaching the final.

“If you’d have told me I was going to come seventh again, I’d have been buzzing,” she said tearfully. “The big thing for me was that I did make it back.

“It’s not sad tears, it’s overcoming emotion. I just wanted to get out there and enjoy myself and it was so much fun. I finished seventh last time and I finished seventh again, so I can’t really be too grumpy.”

The British quartet of Lucy Hope, Anna Hopkin, Abbie Wood and Freya Anderson finished fifth in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, with Australia claiming gold in a world record time of 3:29.69.