SCOTLAND’S Duncan Scott anchored Great Britain to a brilliant silver in the 4x100m medley relay to bring the curtain down on the country’s best Olympic Games in the swimming pool for 108 years.
Michael Phelps won the 23rd gold medal of his Olympic career in his final race as the United States won the race but Britain can reflect on a superb week at the Rio Aquatics Centre.
Four years ago in London the British swimming team were viewed as the most high-profile disappointment in an otherwise magnificent Games for the host nation as they could only deliver silver from Scotland’s Michael Jamieson and two bronzes from the legendary Rebecca Adlington.
The performance in Rio has greatly exceeded expectations of a three-to-five-medal target set by funding partners UK Sport, and it is a best total haul since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
The medley relay was a fitting finish to a fine week.
Chris Walker-Hebborn, Adam Peaty, James Guy and 19-year-old Glaswegian Scott finished in three minutes 29.24 seconds as the USA won in 3mins 27.95secs - a new Olympic record - as Phelps picked up the 28th medal of his illustrious career.
Britain had won five medals entering the final evening of competition at the Olympics Aquatics Centre - 100m breaststroke gold for Peaty, plus two silvers for Jazz Carlin, silver in the 4x200m freestyle relay and 200m individual medley silver for Siobhan O’Connor.
Britain were sixth following Walker-Hebborn’s backstroke leg, but a blistering breaststroke stint from Peaty - a split time of 56.59 - saw the fastest qualifiers surge into the lead.
Phelps overtook Guy on the butterfly leg, handing over to Nathan Adrian, who held off Scott to give Phelps a golden swansong. Bronze went to Australia.
The growing strength in depth in British swimming is evidenced by the fact that this meet brought the first Olympic relay medals for the team since 1984. Scott and Guy had earlier teamed up with Scots Stephen Milne and Dan Wallace to deliver in the 4x200m freestyle.
Fran Halsall earlier claimed Britain’s seventh fourth-placed finish of the meet, in the women’s 50m freestyle final.
Swimming in lane six after qualifying fourth-fastest, Halsall clocked 24.13, 0.06 behind Pernille Blume of Denmark, who won gold in 24.07.
USA’s Simone Manuel, the joint 100m champion, took silver in 24.09 and Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus was third in 24.11, meaning Halsall missed out on the podium by two one-hundredths of a second.
The 26-year-old Southport swimmer was fifth in the one-length dash at London 2012.
Above her on the podium was a convicted doper. Herasimenia served an anti-doping suspension earlier in her career and Halsall may be frustrated by yet another near miss.
Britain’s other fourth-placed finishers in the pool were Max Litchfield, Hannah Miley (both 400m individual medley), Guy (200m freestyle), Andrew Willis, Chloe Tutton (both 200m breaststroke) and Ben Proud (50m freestyle).
Halsall made a swift return to the pool in the women’s 4x100m medley relay, but, in combination with Georgia Davies, Tutton and O’Connor they could finish only seventh in 3:56.96.
USA’s Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer and Manuel won in 3:53.13. Australia were second and Denmark third.
In the last individual final of the programme, Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri won gold in the 1500m freestyle in 14:34.57. Connor Jaeger of the USA was second in 14:39.48 and Italy’s Gabriele Detti third in 14:40.86.