Day 8 Finals Preview: Phelps Goes For Gold One More Time

2016 RIO OLYMPIC GAMES

The greatest Olympic champion in history Michael Phelps will swim the last race of his career tonight, but his swan song won’t be a slam dunk gold medal.

Phelps will swim the fly leg on the final event of the schedule, the men’s 4×100 medley relay, where the Americans are favored for gold. They are undefeated in this event on the Olympic stage, but may face their greatest challenge tonight.

Great Britain has a game changer in Adam Peaty, who was faster than Cody Miller of the United States by 1.74 seconds in the individual 100 breaststroke. If the Americans can be even heading into the final two legs, provided Ryan Murphy leads off similar to his individual win of 51.97 in the 100 back, Phelps and Nathan Adrian should be able to get the job done and earn Phelps his 23rd career gold and 28th medal.

Take a look at full projections for tonight’s medley relay here. This one could be a lot closer than people think. Great Britain actually qualified 1st for the final, and will have lane 4 tonight. The Americans will have lane 5, and other medal contenders China, Japan and Australia will have lanes 2, 3 and 6.

Along with the men’s medley relay we’ll also see the women’s event, along with two individual events: the women’s 50 free and men’s 1500.

Unlike the men the American women look to have a clear path to gold in the women’s medley relay, projecting to win by over two seconds. Like Great Britain with Peaty, Lilly King will be the difference maker for the U.S., as she has been about a second and a half faster than any of the other medal contenders breaststrokers here in Rio.

The battle for the minor medals figures to be a close one between Australia, Canada and China, with Denmark lurking behind those three.

Canada’s Penny Oleksiak will look for her 5th Olympic medal tonight, which would tie her with speed skater Cindy Klassen for the most medals ever won by a Canadian at a single Olympics, summer or winter. It would also tie her for the 2nd most medals ever won by a Canadian Olympian in history, incredibly done in just one Olympic appearance and at just 16 years of age.

Australian Cate Campbell could get some redemption tonight, as two medals are well within her reach if she’s named to Australia’s medley relay (her sister Bronte beat by two tenths in the 100 final, but Cate has been the faster of the two throughout the meet).

The Americans will have lane 4, and they will be surrounded by Denmark in 3 and Canada in 5. The Australians will be out in lane 2, and China will be in lane 7.

If Denmark can muster a surprise medal in the medley relay, they could leave with two medals in the final session after getting zero throughout the week. Pernille Blume has shown incredible form through the heats and semis of the 50 free, taking the top spot both times to land her lane 4 for tonight’s final.

As we saw in the 100, the times haven’t been anything special in the 50 heading to the final, so Blume could easily win a medal.

It won’t be easy though, with Cate and Bronte CampbellFrancesca HalsallRanomi KromowidjojoSimone Manuel and Etiene Medeiros all qualifying within two tenths of Blume in the semi-finals. The other member of the final, Belarus’ Aliaksandra Herasimenia, was the 2012 silver medalist in this event.

Surrounding Blume will be defending champion Kromowidjojo in lane 3 and Campbell in lane 5. Medeiros and Bronte Campbell will be out in lanes 1 and 2, while Halsall, Manuel and Herasimenia will have lanes 6, 7 and 8.

The men’s 1500 freestyle will have a new Olympic champion in 2016, as defending champion Sun Yang failed to advance out of the heats in 16th.

Even with Sun in the final, the big favorite for gold would have to be Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri, who won the World Championship title last year without Sun and then posted the 2nd fastest time ever – 14:34.04 – at the European Championships in May. He didn’t compete in the 400 free, so this will be his first and only final of the meet. Sun’s world record of 14:31.02 could go by the wayside tonight.

2015 World silver medalist Connor Jaeger will be in the hunt with Paltrinieri throughout the race, as he lost to Paltrinieri last year by less than two seconds. Like last year he qualified for the final 2nd behind Paltrinieri, and his American teammate, open water specialist Jordan Wilimovsky, qualified 3rd.

400 free gold and bronze medalists Mack Horton and Gabriele Detti will also be in the running for medals, owning personal bests of 14:39.54 and 14:46.48 respectively. Detti’s 400 bronze stands as Italy’s only swimming medal here, so he and Paltrinieri will look to triple that mark on the final night.

Canada’s Ryan Cochrane will swim out in lane 1, looking to become the first Canadian swimmer to ever medal in three consecutive Olympics after winning bronze in 2008 and silver in 2012. He’ll be in tough to do so though, as he was dropped at the tail end of his preliminary heat and hasn’t broken 14:50 since 2014.

Alongside Cochrane in lane 1 will be Detti, Wilimovsky and Paltrinieri in lanes 2, 3 and 4. Jaeger and Horton will be in 5 and 6, while Damien Joly of France and Henrik Christiansen of Norway will be in lanes 7 and 8.

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swimdoc

Boy did Team USA exceed my expectations this Olympics. Hard to even remember Ervin’s 49 relay split at Worlds now, or Bobo’s lectures about what the American women needed to learn from the Australians about sprint freestyle.

Naya Missy

Events that US definitely were not expected to win:
– Men’s 50 Free
– Men’s 4×100 Free Relay
– Women’s 100 Free
– Women’s 200 Back

+ a bunch of other medals as well. The entire Team USA has been amazing (especially on the finishes) this Olympics.

Iain

Wouldn’t put the 4x100m on that list. It was expected to be close with three teams, and then going into the actual race the US were definite favourites.

Brute Bradford

Won’t be if but by how much, for both US women and men. No way Phelps won’t hand Adrian a lead.

Jake

Thank you, Michael Phelps, for changing the sport of swimming and inspiring generations of young swimmers to become Olympic champions. It has been a privilege to watch you grow in the past 16 years, not only as the GOAT but also as a person. Farewell, Michael, and Godspeed.

JerDawg

And thanks to Lochte and Adrian and Franklin who also inspired many young ones during this era!! I think Phelps too would credit not just himself for this!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James is currently a university swimmer for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He is studying economics. Along with swimming, he also loves hockey. He's in his 14th season as a competitive swimmer. Best Times - SCM (LCM) 50 FR - 24.56 (25.12) 100 FR - 53.58 (56.70) 200 FR - 1:56.07 (2:04.29) 1500 …

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