It was expected, tipped and would have been utterly disappointing if they had not achieved it but, as we so often hear, in an Olympics anything can happen.
Thankfully for the Australians, things went just as they were supposed to last night when the 4x200m freestyle relay team of Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim, Bill Kirby and Todd Pearson won gold and, just for the benefit of the chanting crowd, threw in a world record.
In a time of 7min 07.05sec, the shortest-priced favourites of the Games got the money and slashed 1.74 off their own world record.
Instead of anchoring the relay as he did on Saturday in the 4x100m, Thorpe led off this time and set the race up perfectly for his teammates with a 1:46.03 split.
In a shock, Klim dived in second and built perfectly on the early work of Thorpe. When Klim hit the wall after his stint, the Australians were more than three seconds inside world record pace.
Next it was up to Pearson. He kept things on track, and when Kirby hit the water the gold was secured and all the crowd wanted was the record. They weren’t disappointed.
The victory also means that Thorpe joins legendary swimmers Murray Rose and Shane Gould as a triple Olympic gold medallist at one Games, adding the relay medallion to the ones he won in the 400m freestyle and the 4x100m.
At the Melbourne Games in 1956, Rose won the 400m and 1500m freestyle and was a member of the 4x200m relay team.
In Munich in 1972, Gould won the 200m and 400m freestyle and the 200m individual medley.
Michael Klim could equal or exceed the trio. Klim has two gold from the relays and is still to contest his pet event, the 100m butterfly, tonight’s 100m freestyle final and the 4x100m medley relay on Saturday.
Although he was not standing on the victory dais last night, it was a special moment for Daniel Kowalski. It Atlanta four years ago, Kowalski won minor medals in the 200m (bronze), 400m (bronze) and 1500m (silver) freestyle, but has admitted that he would have swapped the three for one gold.
And although he did not swim last night, Kowalski now has that gold medal. He swam in yesterday morning’s heats and that was enough of a contribution to earn him a gold medal.
It’s an amazing change of fortune for the 25-year-old. Just 12 months ago he was wondering if he still had a swimming career after undergoing shoulder surgery.
But he moved to the Gold Coast to train alongside Grant Hackett, and in May completed the comeback when he qualified for the Olympic relay team.
Before he required surgery, Kowalski had been a member of the Australian team (along with Thorpe, Klim, and Matt Dunn) which won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, and broke the Unified team’s world mark set at Barcelona.
And despite this not appearing to be his best meeting, Hackett also is now an Olympic gold medallist, having swum in the heats.
Like Kowalski, Hackett has previously been on a 4x200m world record-breaking team. He joined Thorpe, Kirby and Klim on the team which set the mark at the 1999 Pan Pacific championships in Sydney.
Hackett would have been expected to slot straight into the relay team but some below-standard form, including a 1:50.21 heat split, left team selectors with no option but to bypass him for the final.
He will aim for a second gold, in the 1500m, with the heats on Friday morning.
The relay win ended a lengthy drought for Australia in the event. The only other time they won it was back in 1956 when Kevin O’Halloran, John Devitt, Murray Rose and Jon Hendricks combined to break the world record.