Lewis Clareburt missed a golden opportunity to join an exclusive club of New Zealand swimmers to stand on an Olympic podium when he finished seventh in the 400m individual medley.
Clareburt hit the wall in 4m 11.22s to finish well behind American Chase Kalisz at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
Clareburt wasn't among the frontrunners after the butterfly but raced to the front after the backstroke leg. He gave the lead back to Kalisz on the troublesome breaststroke leg and had nothing in the tank in the freestyle as he was swamped by most of the field.
It will be bitterly disappointing for Clareburt as he finished two seconds slower than his heat time.
The Wellington 22-year-old highlighted his medal credentials last night when he knocked .38s off his national record in winning his heat. He finished second-fastest qualifier yet declared his swim an anaemic two out of 10 thanks to a comparatively sluggish breaststroke leg.
Australian Brendon Smith, who took bronze in the final, was the only finalist to swim faster in heats that provided a major disappointment to home fans when local favourite Daiya Seto ran out of petrol on the freestyle leg having set a blistering pace early.
The last New Zealander to win a medal in the pool was Danyon Loader, who won two golds in Atlanta 25 years ago, before Clareburt was even an apple in the eyes of his parents.
Since then, Moss Burmester and Lauren Boyle have come close to joining Loader in the Olympic medal club that includes Jean Stewart, who won bronze in 1952, Anthony Mosse and Paul Kingsman, who won the same coloured medals in Seoul in 1988.
Few have carried quite as much expectation as Clareburt, coached by Irishman Gary Hollywood out of the Capital Swim Club, who put his hand up in this most disrupted of Olympic cycles by winning world championship bronze in 2019.
The other two on the dais that day in Seoul were Seto and Japan-born American Jay Litherland, who has New Zealand heritage and swam from lane seven, finishing with silver.
While a decent pointer to Olympic success, it is far from conclusive with the vagaries of "big-match" nerves and the differences in build-ups across the various swimming nations coming into play.
Clareburt's result will be a huge bummer for the beleaguered sport that has often been criticised for soaking up millions in taxpayer funding without any discernible return.
The Wellington swimmer has also qualified for the 200m medley.