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Peter Evans and the Quietly Confident Quartet

25/07/2014

The Australian men’s 4x100m medley relay team defied all expectations by surging to Olympic gold at Moscow 1980. In the latest of our “Words of Olympians” series, Peter Evans, the man who swam the breaststroke leg in that memorable final, tells their enthralling story.

Whenever he looks back to the July day when he and his three colleagues in Australia’s 4x100m medley relay team secured a stunning victory in the final at Moscow 1980, Peter Evans always remembers one moment in particular. It came just before the race, when Evans, who was to swim breaststroke on the second leg, found himself in what he describes as an “altered state”. “It’s what athletes call ‘being in the zone’. I was very, very focused. My mind was virtually outside my body.”

Lining up with Evans were Mark Kerry (backstroke), Mark Tonelli (butterfly) and Neil Brooks (freestyle), and as he recalls, the Aussies’ were helped in their quest by Sweden’s disqualification in the morning heats. “They were ranked No1 in the world,” he says. Despite not being favoured, the Australian four felt they had a chance, with the 23-year-old Tonelli – the most senior member of the team – deciding they should call themselves the Quietly Confident Quartet. They also pledged to each other that they would beat their personal bests in their respective specialities.

Kerry kicked off their challenge, swimming his two lengths in 57.89 – a personal best - and handing over to Evans in fourth, with the Soviet Union leading from Hungary and Great Britain. Evans kept his promise by beating his own PB with a time of 1:03.01, propelling his side into second place, 0.45 seconds behind the hosts. Tonelli then swam 54.94 in the butterfly leg, a whole two seconds faster than his PB, though it was not enough to wrest the lead from the Soviets, who led by 0.81 at the final handover thanks to a strong performance by Yevgeni Seredin. It was left to anchorman Brooks to bring home the gold, which he did by overhauling Sergei Kopliakov on the final length and touching the wall in a personal best time of 49.98, giving the Australians gold by a margin of 0.22 seconds ahead of the home quartet, with the British completing the podium. 

“We all beat our personal bests comfortably and we got the gold,” says Evans. “It was a huge shock, but a good one.” The Perth swimmer, who was 19 at the time, enjoyed an especially productive Games, having edged the USSR’s Alexandr Fedorovski to bronze just two days earlier in the 100m breaststroke, a race in which gold went to Britain’s Duncan Goodhew and silver to Soviet swimmer Arsen Miskarov.  

Evans went on to win bronze in the same events at Los Angeles 1984, after which he retired, with Australia’s stunning 1980 relay win as the lofty pinnacle of his sporting career.

Discover the best photos of Moscow 1980

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    The final torchbearer, basketballer Sergei Belov, in the Moscow Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony

    ©IOC

  • Relay Moscow 1980

    A torchbearer during the Moscow 1980 Games Torch relay

    ©IOC

  • Aleksandr Dityatin (URS)

    Aleksandr Dityatin on the rings at the Moscow 1980 Games

    ©IOC

  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The reverse of this medal is very different from its obverse. However, it is not the work of the same artist. While the obverse was a creation by Giuseppe Cassioli, the reverse was designed by Ilya Postol, a young Soviet sculptor. We can see several elements that stand out through their stylisation: an Olympic cauldron, an athletics track in the background and the official logo of the Moscow Games on the top right ©CIO

  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The obverse comprises a design by Tuscan artist Giuseppe Cassioli. This motif can be found on the obverse of all the winner’s medals presented at the Summer Games since 1928 with the exception of three special cases: Barcelona'92, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. An inscription, in Cyrillic, allows us to make the link with the Moscow Games. This is its transcription in the Latin alphabet and its translation: “Igry XXII Olympiady Moskva 1980” / “Games of the XXII Olympiad, Moscow 1980”©IOC

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    View of the delegations standing in front of the Misha mascot created by the public holding up boards

    ©IOC

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