THEY say there is no worse feeling than finish fourth in an Olympics so you must empathise with Max Litchfield after he did it for the second Games running. 

Five years ago, there was some consolation in the fact that the Pontefract swimmer was a fresh-faced 21-year-old in his maiden Olympics. 

Here in Tokyo in the 400m individual medley, the first swimming final of the competition, it was harder to draw the positives. Just 21 hundredths separated him from the bronze medal. 

In the immediate aftermath Litchfield struggled to hold back the emotions, admitting it was tougher second time around. 

“It is gutting. So close but so far. I have done everything I can these last five years, just not quite enough,” said Litchfield, who is able to train full-time and benefit from world class facilities, technology, coaching and support teams thanks to National Lottery funding – which has never been more important in getting her to the start line after a turbulent year.

“It is what it is. We will go back and look at what we can do better. 

“I don't think there was too much wrong. Small things, we'll go back and look at how we can do things better.” 

What will be more galling for Litchfield is that his heat time of 4:10.20, only good enough for eighth-fastest qualifier, would have won him silver. 

That is an indication of just how demanding the 400m medley is. Doing it twice in such a short space of time – the heats were on Saturday evening, the final first up the following morning – is a huge ask. 

American favourite Chase Kalisz pulled clear on the backstroke leg and never looked back, but behind him, the race for the silver and bronze was intense. 

Litchfield looked like he might get one with ten metres to go, but in the end, he had nothing left to give. 

The 25-year-old could potentially feature in Britain’s 4x200m freestyle relay, a genuine medal prospect, but also a highly competitive team. 

And as hard as it was to see his Olympic hopes dashed in this manner, Litchfield knows that he must turn his focus to the relay. 

He added: “Maybe I’ll do the 4x200m but it will depend on the team – hopefully, the guys can go in there and smash it in the heats. We will see. I must go back and focus as if I am doing that. If not, I'm done.” 

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