Day 2 was crazy. There were two World Records, a European Record, and plenty of major upsets to be had. It was a repeat of day 1’s chaos, only twice as big.
The expectation is that things should settle in on day 3 a bit, but for now we got one more day of the roller-coaster.
Women’s 100 Butterfly Final
So much for no more World Records. For the 2nd time in two nights, a World Record swim has gone down in the London Aquatics Centre, as American Dana Vollmer took down the World Record, and in the process became the first woman in history to go under 56 seconds. Vollmer marked a 55.98, which took down the old record of 56.06, set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom in 2009 (as just a 15-year old).
Vollmer had a brave swim. As we discussed in our session preview, from prelims to the semi-finals, her first 50 got faster, but her overall time got slower. She made the logical decision, and pulled up ever-so-slightly on the first 50 meters. She turned in 3rd in a 26.39; still very fast, but three-tenths slower than she was on Saturday. The decision paid off though, as Vollmer had more-than-enough on the back-half to overcome Jeanette Ottesen and Claire Donahue. (Aside: Vollmer lost her cap in this swim, and still broke the record).
In fact, it was all of the back-half swimmers who roared home in this race. China’s Ying Lu (turned 4th) took the silver in 56.87, and Australia’s Alicia Coutts (turned last) took bronze in 56.94.
The former World Record holder, and another great back-half swimmer, Sarah Sjostrom finished 4th: the same position in which she was in at the World Championships. Aside from a swapping of positions between Coots and Lu, this was the same top 4 we saw last year in Shanghai.
A newcomer to the field was Italy’s Ilaria Bianchi. She swam a 57.27 for 5th, which broke the Italian Record for the 2nd straight round. She’s now cut a full second off of her National best coming into this meet.
Ottesen, a 50 specialist who led at the turn, was 6th in 57.35, followed by the American Claire Donahue (57.48) and the home country’s Ellen Gandy in 57.76.
Men’s 200 Free – Semifinals
Another sort of ho-hum race in this men’s 200 free, just like we saw in the prelims. China’s Sun Yang turned even with Tae-Hwan Park at the 150 meter mark in heat 2 (just like they did in the 400 final), which is nearly an automatic Yang victory. Victory he got, with a 1:45.61, still looking fairly easy. The two heat winners, Paul Biedermann (1:46.10) and Yang have the advantage of not needing to worry about a relay final.
That’s as compared to their seconds: France’s Yannick Agnel (1:45.84) and American Ryan Lochte (1:46.31), who must quickly cool down and prepare for the 400 free relay that will end the session. For Lochte, that’s about two seconds off of where he’s expected to be, so clearly didn’t use too much energy.
Danila Izotov, another relay swimmer, tied with hometown swimmer Robbie Renwick of Great Britain tied for 6th in 1:46.65, and Thomas Fraser-Holmes was the last qualifier in 1:46.80.
American Ricky Berens was better than he was in the prelims, but his 1:46.87 still wasn’t quite good enough as he finished 9th.
Women’s 100 Breast – Semis
Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, with visible confidence and the crowd suddenly behind her, is the real deal. She backed up her prelims swim with a new European Record of 1:05.21, breaking a 1:05.41 set by Russia’s Yuliya Efimova in the 2009 at 1:05.41.
Meilutyte again went out very hard, splitting a 30.55 in the opening 50. Even with speed-burners like Efimova and Australian Leisel Jones on either side of her, she had a clear advantage at the turn. She holds on well, and only with about 7 or 8 meters to go does she show even small signs of fatigue.
This puts a lot of pressure on American Rebecca Soni, winner of heat 1 and 2nd overall, who swam a 1:05.75. She was better at Worlds last year than Meilutyte was here, but she will have more than a second deficit to make up at the turn, unless she makes a drastic change. The 1.2 seconds that Meilutyte was ahead today equates to roughly 1.8 meters.
But Soni is certainly capable of that speed – as one of our readers points out, she opened in 30.7 at Worlds last year. We’ll have to see if she’s willing to attack.
Efimova will sit 3rd overall in 1:06.51, which is a better swim than we’ve seen from the Russian women in this meet so far.American Breeja Larson used her outstanding pullouts to get off of the blocks fast and take the 4th spot in 1:06.58. The NCAA Champion swims very similarly to another Texas A&M Aggie, and NCAA Champion, Alia Atkinson of Jamaica.
The two were at the lead of their heat after the first few strokes, but Atkinson’s final result wasn’t as good. She will be forced into a swimoff, which will have epic intensity at this level, with Canada’s Tera van Beilen, as the two tied in 1:07.48.
Other finalists, that are for sure, will be Leisel Jones in 1:06.81, Denmark’s Rikke Moeller-Pedersen in 1:06.82, and Satomi Suzuki in 1:07.10.
Women’s 100 Breast – SWIMOFF
Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson, one of the most powerful breaststrokers in the world, had no trouble in the swimoff, and was actually faster than the first try with a 1:06.79. She’ll still be the 8th seed in an outside lane in the final, though. Van Beilen swam a 1:07.73, and will now begin to prepare for the 200.
Men’s 100 Breast – Finals
This race was the meet’s 5th individual final. In all 5 of those finals to this point, we’ve seen an Olympic Record, and in three of them, we’ve seen a World Record. For all of the talk about suits, though in 2008 they weren’t quite as bad as in 2009, we’re ahead of pace from the last Olympics, where at this point there were 3 World Records and just 4 Olympic Records.
Number three came to Cameron van der Burgh in 58.46. That broke the 58.58 World Record held by Australia’s Brenton Rickard from 2009. It also took down his own Olympic Record, set in Saturday’s semifinals.
Van der Burgh already held the 50 record, so it’s no surprise that he was first at the turn. But Australia’s Christian Sprenger, who is the 200 World Record holder, was only 6-tenths behind, so it wasn’t a gap out-of-reach. But van der Burgh, through intentional focus, has improved his endurance in the last year since the World Championships, and that paid off as he only gave up two-tenths on the back-half.
Sprenger finished 2nd in 58.93, moving him to 7th all-time and only the 4th man under 59 seconds in textile.
The bronze medal went to American Brendan Hansen in 59.49. Were it not for a stumble in 2008, he could have been the first man to medal in the breaststrokes in three straight Olympics.
Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta was 4th in 59.53, which is another National Record. Between that swim, and Kitajima’s poor performance here (5th in 59.79), he has to become a huge favorite in the 200 breaststroke.
Brenton Rickard placed 6th in 59.87, Italy’s Fabio Scozzoli was 7th in 59.97, and Giedrius Titenis from Lithuania was the only swimmer above a minute in 1:00.84.
Women’s 400 Free – Finals
This was supposed to be one of the great races of the meet. Ultimately, it was a very good race between France’s Camille Muffat and the United States’ Allison Schmitt, but it didn’t quite have the depth and chaos that was expected. Muffat swam a fairly traditional race, to the contrary of what we’ve seen from her over the past few months. The result was the same, though, demonstrating that she can swim this race however she wants to, as she took gold in an Olympic Record of 4:01.45.
Even against the hard-starting Schmitt, Muffat led this race wire-to-wire, going out in a 1:59.50 and coming home in a 2:01.95. That’s as compared to Schmitt’s 1:59.88-2:01.89 to take silver in a new American Record of4:01.77.
The hometown swimmer Rebecca Adlington, swimming out of lane 8, took bronze in 4:03.01. That just barely missed becoming the host nation’s first medalist of the games to a cyclist earlier in the day, but it did score their first swimming medal. As the defending champion, however, she was hoping for a better time.
Denmark’s Lotte Friis took 4th in 4:03.98.
The defending World Champion Federika Pellegrini of Italy got pulled out of her race. She’s used to starting a bit slower and coming home faster, however here she split 2:00.62-2:03.88 to touch in 4:04.50 for 5th. She was followed by Coralie Balmy of France, who had a good start, in 4:05.95 for 6th; Canada’s Brittany MacLean in 7th in 4:06.24, and Lauren Boyle 8th in 4:06.25. Those three all were faster in the prelims.
Men’s 100 Back – Semi’s
American Matt Grevers continued to be far-and-away the class of this 100 backstroke field, with a 52.66 to take the top seed headed into finals. He’s already far ahead of where he was in the semi’s at the Olympic Trials, and even with France’s Camille Lacourt lurking, he’ll be a heavy favorite in Monday’s final.
Lacour was 2nd in 53.03, with Britain’s Liam Tancock swimming as well as we’ve seen in the last two years with a 53.25 for 3rd. Tancock had some tough swims since British Trials, but his plans seem to be coming together at the right moment.
Japan’s Ryosuke Irie, who took bronze at the World Championships, was 4th in 53.29. American Nick Thoman continued to slow-play the early rounds (a game he’s fond of) and put in a 53.47.
China’s Feiyi Chang was 6th in 53.50, Germany’s Helge Meeuw 7th in 53.52, and Australia’s Hayden Stoeckel 8th in 53.74.
Russia’s Arkady Vyatchanin, who has been training in Florida with Gregg Troy, just missed with a 53.79 for 9th.
Women’s 100 Back – Semi’s
Emily Seebohm wasn’t able to match her lightning-quick Olympic Record in prelims, but there still wasn’t anybody near her in this semi-final as she swam a 58.39 to take lane 4 for finals.
Missy Franklin dropped a couple of tenths to remain in the second position in 59.12. Her turn was again outstanding, but she still has to figure out some way to make even a small improvement on her start if she wants the gold medal over Seebohm.
Japan’s Aya Terakawa took 3rd in 59.34, followed by China’s Jing Zhao (59.55), Russia’s Anastasia Zueva (59.68), and Britain’s World Record holder Gemma Spofforth (59.70). That’s Spofforth’s best time since 2010, after a struggle of a season in 2011.
Australia’s Belinda Hocking and China’s Yuanhui Fu were 7th and 8th, all under a minute, to give their respective countries two entries in the final.
Canada’s Julia Wilkinson had tough luck in 9th place with a 59.91; her teammate Sinead Russell was 16th in 1:00.57, still bothered by a hip injury suffered in June. The second American, Rachel Bootsma, was 11th in 1:00.04.
Men’s 400 Free Relay – Final
On July 29th, 2012, Jason Lezak became a verb. The swimming community was abuzz that the Americans got Lezak’ed on this 400 free relay. Despite a great swim from Clement Lefert (the unsung hero of the French relay), Yannick Agnel hit the water half-a-second behind Ryan Lochte. In an eerily similar fashion to how Lezak swam against Alain Bernard of France in this same relay in 2008, Agnel, drafted on the powerful wake of Lochte, and then exploded from the final turn to carry the French to a win in 3:09.93. That is France’s first ever relay gold.
The Americans touched in 3:10.38, with Agnel’s amazing split of 46.74 bettering Lochte’s 47.74 by exactly a second.
Both relays swam very well. As mentioned, Lefert had a very good time of 47.39; speed that not many expected from him. He was matched on the third leg by American Cullen Jones, who again did his part on the relay with a 47.6. Nathan Adrian led off the US in 47.8, and Michael Phelps showed the swimming community a lot about his ability to bounce back with a 47.1.
A team that did not swim well, however, was Australia. Coming in as a favorite for gold, and a near-lock for a medal of any color, they placed 4th in 3:11.63. Their two big pieces of James Magnussen (48.03) and James Roberts (48.09) bookended the squad in thoroughly disappointing splits. Matt Targett and Eamon Sullivan were better in the middle, but they couldn’t carry the relay.
Lost in the excitement and disappointment of those three squads was the Russians, who took a bronze medal in 3:11.41. That gave them their first medal in this event since 1996 and the days of legend Alexander Popov. While this group doesn’t seem to have anybody like him in their midst, they made some big sacrifices and were rewarded with a medal. The best swim was by Nikita Lobintsev, who was a 47.4 on the 2nd leg.
The South Africans took 5th, followed by Germany, Italy, and surprise finalists Belgium. Notable splits come in a pair of 47.9’s from Marco di Carli and Markus Deibler of Germany, both on rolling starts.