Lewis Clareburt says he knew it was always going to be difficult to back up his national record in last night's 400-metre individual medley heat when he took to the pool for the final today.
The 22-year-old looked on track for a medal, before "the piano fell" in the last 50 metres, as Clareburt described it, seeing him slip to seventh place.
It was a disappointing result given Clareburt had been in the gold medal spot halfway through the race, but by the end Clareburt said his "lungs were pretty much gone" and his body was "freezing up".
Clareburt finished in a time of 4:11.22, nearly two seconds slower than his heat the night before. However, it was his fastest ever time in a morning swim, which he admitted was his kryptonite.
"It’s pretty easy to pinpoint where it went wrong, it’s because it was in the morning," Clareburt said.
"If it was at night it probably would’ve been a different story.
"I tried to get up early and get over those morning blues. It affects everyone but maybe it affected me more."
The young Wellingtonian was trying to break New Zealand's 25-year-old medal drought in the pool, the last to do so being Danyon Loader at Atlanta 1996.
The national coach at the time of Loader's victory in Atlanta, Mark Bone today told 1 NEWS while Clareburt's swim was a disappointing result, it was still "massive" for New Zealand swimming to have him in the final.
"It wasn't a fast race, that is where is disappointment will be.
"I still think he could've won that gold medal. He only had to improve his New Zealand record by 0.02 seconds and he would've won gold.
"Don't knock him because he is a great athlete and a great young man."
Clareburt still has one more race left in Tokyo, in the 200-metre individual medley. His heat is on Wednesday night and he said he was looking forward to "having fun and racing fast".
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