The finals on Wednesday evening, day 5 of the meet, won’t see most of the American superstars in individual finals. Ryan Lochte has a pair of semi’s, Phelps has one of his own, and Missy has a relay swim in the women’s 800 and an individual semi in the 100 free.
But this will sneakily be one of the best sessions of the meet. The men’s 200 breast could have Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta shoot for a World Record, swimming next to two Brits that have been the best performers for the home team so far. It will also see the Australian James Magnussen and the Brazilian World Record holder Cesar Cielo square off in the men’s 100 free, with swimmers like Nathan Adrian and the upstart Hanser Garcia from Cuba trying to spoil the party.
Medals will also be handed out in the women’s 200 fly, featuring American Kathleen Hersey trying to hold off the two Chinese superstars.
Refresh frequently as we’ll be updating with recaps as the events wrap up.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke – Final
Japan’s two-time defending champion Kosuke Kitajima did exactly what he needed to do in taking this race out very hard and turning halfway in a lead. But not hard enough to hold of the Herky Hungarian Daniel Gyurta. The two-time defending World Champion was only two-tenths behind at the turn, and with his closing speed, that’s not nearly enough.
Gyurta quickly overtook the lead, and touched in 2:07.28: breaking an inevitable World Record by just .03 seconds. That took down the 2:07.31 set by Australian Christian Sprenger (since shifted in focus to the 100) at the 2009 World Championships. At a meet where Hungary has struggled elsewhere, Gyurta roars through with their first medal: a gold.
Incidentally, that also broke Kitajima’s Olympic Record of 2:07.64 from 2008.
He wasn’t without challenge at the end of this race, though. Britain’s Michael Jamieson closed even faster, but ran out of pool as he took silver in 2:07.43. That’s a new British Record, and the 4th-best time in history. That’s just Britain’s second medal in the swimming leg of these Olympics, and their highest yet. In total, that becomes a 2.4 second drop overall in this meet for Jamieson as he broke National Records in all three roudns of the event.
As for Kitajima, he came into this meet with the potential for a pair of three-peats. He leaves, however, without an individual medal at least (still a chance in the medley) after his countrymate Ryo Tateishi knocked him off of the podium with a 2:08.29. That’s the best Tateishi has ever done on a year-end taper meet such as this. Japan now has 6 medals, and all of them bronze.
Kitajima was 4th in 2:08.39, followed by more great times from Americans Scott Weltz (2:09.02) and Clark Burckle (2:09.25). Weltz was a hair off of his semi-final time, but Burckle posted a best time for the third straight round for 5th. Australia’s Brenton Rickard (2:09.28) and Britain’s Andrew Willis (2:09.44) round out the final.
Women’s 100 Free Semi-Final
In a parallel to what we saw from Australia’s James Magnussen in the men’s 100 free semifinal on Tuesday, the Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo had a breakout in this semi-final. She broke off a huge 53.05, which is a new Olympic Record ahead of Britta Steffen’s 53.12 from 2008. She turned in 25.75, and though she wasn’t the only swimmer to turn under 26 seconds, she was the only one to hold on to her speed well in taking the top seed.
Kromowidjojo often takes her races out hard, but that open was quick even for her, so we’ll have to look for a possible change of strategy in the final ala Dana Vollmer, or maybe her to hold on even better on the back-half.
Australia’s Melanie Schlanger posted her second best-time in as many rounds of this 100 free with a 53.38 for the 2nd overall seed and a win in the opposite heat. She’s as good of a 200 freestyler as anybody aside from Missy Franklin in this freestyle, and that showed as she wasn’t out too fast but closed well. Franklin swam very similarly, and will take the 3rd seed in 53.59.
Fortunately for both swimmers, this is the start of a long session, so there will be plenty of time to recover before both swim crucial legs on their respective 800 free relays.
China’s Yi Tang is in a similar position, and backed way-off (or faded) on the second 50 of this race. She will still take the 4th seed in 53.60.
Following was a 5th-place tie between defending co-World Champion Jeanette Ottesen and Britain’s Fran Halsall in 53.77, followed by the other co-World Champion Aleksandra Herasimenia of Bulgaria. This marks the 10th-ever Olympic finalist in Bulgaria’s history.
The 8th, and final, finalist is American Jessica Hardy in 53.86.
This was a deep field, so there were plenty of huge names who missed the final. Perhaps the toughest was Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom as she continues to struggle in this meet, finishing 9th in 53.93. That’s the second-straight semi in which she hasn’t advanced, after placing 10th in the 200 free. Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, NCAA Champion from Auburn, was 10th in 54.12. That’s about four-tenths off of her semi-final swim, but she has represented well for her home nation.
The Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk is another swimmer who has struggled in this meet. She scratched the 200 free already, and now was 11th in this semi in 54.13, after entering with the potential for two individual medals. The World Record holder Britta Steffen was a 54.18, leaving her country with only two serious shots at Olympic medals: her 50 free, and the men’s 400 medley relay.
Men’s 200 Back – Semifinal
Tyler Clary looked great again in his second semifinal, with a 1:54.71 for the top seed. He still looks like he can finish a bit harder, but he was certainly happy with that swim. An interesting thought is that at the Olympic Trials, it was the last 15 meters or so where Ryan Lochte really put him away, but he still made the choice to push the front part of this race in both of the early rounds, and shut things down in the last 15 meters.
As for Lochte, he exerted further off of the last turn than he did in the morning, but still only had about 25 hard meters en route to a second seed of 1:55.40. Close behind him was China’s Zheng Fenglin in 1:55.66, a National Record for him. Japan’s Ryosuke Irie, looking still very relaxed, was 4th in 1:55.68. He seems to be hurtling toward yet another Japanese bronze.
The rest of the finalists was Poland’s best-ever Radoslaw Kawecki, (1:56.74), Kazuki Watanabe (1:56.81), and Mitch Larkin of Australia in 1:56.82. Israel’s Youkav Toumarkin also snuck in 8th in 1:57.33, just .02 ahead of Germany’s Jan-Philip Glania.
Women’s 200 Fly – Final
American Kathleen Hersey has been phenomenal throughout this 200 fly, but despite another very good time in the finals, her momentum just ran out as she finished 4th in 2:05.78, a best time for the third-straight round.
Spain’s Mireia Belmonte-Garcia held a huge lead going into the last 50, and looked like she the field would simply run out on her. However, the defending World Champion Jiao Liuyang closed in an amazing 31.31. Among the best 50 swims in history, that’s the second-best closing 50 (including ahead of countrymate Liu Zige’s World Record swim). This swim takes down the Olympic Record with a 2:04.04. She was the only swimmer under 2:05, surprisingly, as Belmonte took silver in 2:05.25. That’s just the second ever Olympic medal for the Spanish women, and the first as high as silver.
The old Olympic Record belonged to Liuyang’s countrymate, the defending Olympic Champion, Zige, but she was dead-last in this final in 2:07.77.
The bronze medal went to who else but the Japanese, with Natsumi Hoshi touching in 2:05.48. That’s still far from her season-best, but gives Japan 7 bronze in 7 medals. Japan now has 28 bronze medals all-time, tying them for 4th on the all-time bronze medal list, just 1 behind Great Britain.
American Cammile Adams was 5th in 2:06.78, slower than she was at Trials, but is her best time at the Olympics She was last at the halfway mark, not unexpected, and used her typical hard close to reel herself back into the top 5. Both American swimmers live and train in Texas, with Hersey at the University of Texas, and Adams at Texas A&M. The pair never had the opportunity to compete in a collegiate meet, however, as Hersey turned pro before Adams got to college.
Men’s 100 Free – Final
Nathan Adrian didn’t swim great at the Olympic Trials. He missed a spot on the team in the 50. That, perhaps, was a blessing-in-disguise though as he was allowed to shift his focus ever-so-slightly to his turns and endurance, with only five 100 freestyles to worry about at this meet.
Even if the effect of that was minuscule, as small as .01 seconds, it paid off. Adrian touched in a best time of 47.52 to take the gold medal just .01 ahead of World Champion James Magnussen of Australia (47.53). Adrian now becomes the second fastest textile-swimmer in history, but he has the gold over the number-one from Australia.
That also gives Adrian the Americans’ first gold medal in this race since 1988. The Americans have, however, won this race at every Olympics held in London – 1948 and 1908 included.
Magnussen’s first 50 has never been great, but it seemed like he was changing that at Australia’s Trials. Still, within two-tenths, his chances of closing looked good. He ran out of room though at the finish to score silver – a second disappointment after the Australian 400 free relay failed toso much as medal.
Canada’s Brent Hayden despite aging, despite not having a great start, has a knack for finding his way onto podiums. After silver last year at Worlds, he was bronze here in 47.80. The wiley veteran has said he’s likely done after this, and he’ll go out with a bronze medal.
Yannick Agnel, maybe running out of gas a little bit, was 4th in 47.84, followed by the Netherlands’ Sebastiaan Verschuren in 47.88. Cesar Cielo finished 6th in 47.92 – that’s shy of his best time of the season, though he said in pre-race interviews that he was focused on the 50. Cuba’s Hanser Garcia matched exactly his National Record from the semi’s with a 48.04, and Russia’s Nikita Lobintsev was 8th in 48.44.
Women’s 200 Breast – Semifinal
Two 200 breast races in the session, and two World Records have gone down, as Rebecca Soni went a 2:20.00 to top the women’s 200 breast semifinal. That clears the old World Record held by Canadian Annamay Pierse at 2:20.14.
If Soni doesn’t break that time in finals, that is going to stand as an iconic record. On the precipice of a magic, though perhaps arbitrary, barrier and will be known by all. She certainly looked to be going all-out already, so an improvement in finals in no guarantee, but she’s certainly struck a bit of demoralization into her opponents.
She was out in a stunning 1:07.82; but as fast as that time sounds (it would tie for ranked 28th in the world as an individual swim), in a historical perspective it’s not that quick, even for her. That, however, is how she’s swum this race this year. She’s held back on the front-half specifically so she is able to close on the back-half.
There were a number of outstanding swims in this race, however. Denmark’s Rikke Moeller-Pedersen rebroke her own National Record again in 2:22.23, followed by Japan’s Satomi Suzuki in 2:22.40.
Two swimmers had big-time breakouts in these semi’s. Russia’s Yuliya Efimova has struggled big-time in this meet, but looked much better in 2:23.40 – though still far from where was expected. South Africa’s Suzaan van Biljon, who took two years off from the sport after Beijing to finish her schooling, was 5th in 2:23.21. That broke the African Record held by the legendary Penny Heyns from all the way back in 1999. After poor semi-finals performances doomed her in both distances in 2008, she made no mistakes here.
American Micah Lawrence was 6th in 2:23.39, followed by Canada’s Martha McCabe (2:24.09) and Australia’s Sarah Foster (2:24.46).
South Korea’s Suyeon Back just missed being her country’s 2nd-ever Olympic finalist by finishing 9th in 2:24.67.
And in continuation of a very confusing event lineup, China’s Ji Liping was 13th in 2:27.26. She and Sun Ye are both out of this final, after both were dropped from the 100 breast where they placed top 5 at the World Championships.
Men’s 200 Im – Semifinal
Two years ago, this would have sounded strange, but among IM’ers Ryan Lochte is developing into perhaps the best breaststroker in the world. Despite being on a second-swim, he took the top seed in 1:56.13, thanks to a big breaststroke leg to blow by Michael Phelps.
That breaststroke could be crucial in the final on Thursday; though it’s similar to his 200 back before hand in that it’s leg-driven, it uses the legs in a very different way. He should still be fresh enough for a good breaststroke leg in the final.
Phelps pulled up on the freestyle and took the 3rd seed overall, second in his heat behind Lochte, in 1:57.11. That means that Phelps and Lochte will be staring at each other for most of this race, with Phelps staring right at Lochte on the closing 50 free.
On Lochte’s left at the finish will be Laszlo Cseh of Hungary, who avoided another early-round mistake in 1:56.74. He’s right in the mix with the two Americans, and though both Phelps and Lochte should drop to 1:54’s, with the upsets we’ve seen at this meet we can’t count anybody out. Cseh has more-than-once been the runner-up to this pair, so he will be hungry.
Brazil’s Thiago Pereira had a slow 50 free split; but we saw him do the same thing in the 400 IM before unleashing in the final. He’s the 4th seed in 1:57.45. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, also with a medal from the 400 IM, was through in 1:57.95, followed by his countrymate Ken Takakawa (1:58.31), Britain’s James Goddard (1:58.49), and South African Chad le Clos (1:48.59).
Women’s 800 Free Relay – Final
The Americans, it would seem for the first time in this meet, will go unquestioned in their lineup selection. The starting trio of Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, and Shannon Vreeland never led this race, but they did hand off to Allison Schmitt within 6-tenths of the Australians. That’s far more than they needed, as Schmitt anchored in a 1:54.0 to carry the Americans to victory in a new Olympic Record of 7:42.92. That blows-away the Australian gold-medal winning relay that had been 7:44.31 in 2008.
Missy Franklin 1:55.96
Dana Vollmer 1:56.02
Shannon Vreeland 1:56.85
Allison Schmitt 1:54.09
The key leg here, as it so often is, was the largely untested Shannon Vreeland. She comes from the great Georgia freestyle tradition just like Schmitt. Franklin didn’t have a great leadoff; Vollmer swam well on leg 2 but still fell further behind; but Vreeland, though she is on her first senior international squad, had a big-time 1:56.85 to hold the Americans right there. At that point, Schmitt was easily close-enough to run-down Australian anchor Alicia Coutts
Coutts swam very well, but this race is simply not her forte, There was nothing she could do to hold off Schmitt. Melanie Schlanger, already with a 100 free swim in this session, did have an outstanding 2nd leg from the Aussies to give them a chance. Australia’s splits are below.
Bronte Barratt 1:55.76
Melanie Schlanger 1:55.62
Kylie Palmer 1:56.91
Alicia Coutts 1:56.12
For bronze was France, led-off by a 1:55.51 from Camille Muffat. She surely could have been better, but that was easily enough to give the French a bronze medal, which is her 3rd of the meet (now one of each color). Her teammates weren’t mind-blowing, but in this relay, just being consistent for three legs, with one big one, is often enough to medal. Coralie Balmy was also impressive with a 1:56.15: she’s had a fantastic meet so far.
Also of note, China, the Worlds bronze medalists, was 5th in only 7:53.11. That includes Shiwen Ye in 1:57.47. After how fast she’d closed her IM races, many expected she would be better.
The Canadian women did very well to finish 4th in 7:50.65, followed by Great Britain in 6th in 7:52.37.