With a contribution to two British records within 24 hours, Lucy Hope’s debut Olympics in the swimming pool delivered moments of historical significance. Not, regretfully, the medal that would have carved an indelible inscription in the record books.

In Sunday’s Olympic women’s 4x100m freestyle relay final, a quartet that also included Anna Hopkin, Abbie Wood and Freya Anderson fell short of the podium in fifth despite lowering their UK mark to 3:33.96.

European champions in the spring, there was no matching gold. Instead victory and all the plaudits in the world went to Australia. The Campbell sisters, Bronte and Cate, laid the foundation for a world record of 3:29.69 that propelled them over three seconds clear of Canada in second, with the USA a further three-hundredths of a second adrift to land bronze.

“It feels pretty good,” Hope declared. Less so, revealed the Borderer, when she feared her dream trip to Tokyo might be cancelled or her abilities shot when she caught Covid and a feverish scramble began.

“I had Covid a month ago so the preparation got altered,” the 25-year-old said. “I just had to adapt the best I can. It was a juggle getting over jetlag and preparing at the same time. I was happy with how I swam and our overall approach to the race. I think we handled it in a really mature way. Swimming the previous night and then coming back in the morning was really challenging. But we went faster.”

Bound for home and recuperation from her best season yet, Hope has much to look forward to now her degree at Edinburgh University is complete. She has been drafted by the New York Breakers for the International Swimming League in late-autumn and then 2022 offers a world championships in Fukuoka and a Commonwealths in Birmingham. This relay group, she believes, has gains to accelerate before it next travels to Japan.

“We have so much potential and so many great juniors coming through. Hopefully we can make it sustainable. We are ones to watch for the future definitely. “

Fighting tears, Aimee Willmott credited her Stirling support crew for getting her to the end of her career in one piece following her seventh spot in the 400m individual medley, a repeat of the Commonwealth champion’s placing at Rio 2016.

Ahead, Yue Ohashi made a splash with Japan’s first gold in the pool as Hungary’s defending champion Katinka Hosszu plunged to fifth in her first defeat in this event for eight years.

Willmott’s new chapter is already mapped out. She is due to get married in December to fiancé Harry. “I did think last month that I better start doing things if we want it to be in December,” she conceded. Soon, she will begin a commute crosstown from her existing base to a job with British Curling. Yet a tough road that included getting stripped of her funding, the Teessider insisted, was smoothed because of her poolside team.

“Five years ago in Rio, I thought I’d have retired by now,” she said. “To get through the last 18 months, I have had so much help from everyone back home.

“From the Scottish Institute of Sport, everyone in Stirling, my coach Steve Tigg, my family. I’m thankful I can finish my career enjoying being in a pool.”

Max Litchfield was fourth in the men’s 400IM final, matching both his placing and his despair from Rio 2016, as Chase Kalisz secured an expected victory ahead of Jay Litherland in a US 1-2. “I've done everything I can these last five years,” the Yorkshireman said. “Just not quite enough."

Elsewhere, there was a wholly unexpected victor in the men's 400m freestyle as unheralded 18-year-old Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui struck gold from Lane 8.