North America Recap Day 2: Phelps Wins 19th Career Olympic Gold


What a second night in the pool we just saw, and what a night for North America. There were many big stories; world records, junior world records, medals, national records…but none bigger than the greatest Olympian of all-time, Michael Phelps, extending his record for the most gold medals ever won, claiming his 19th in the American’s triumph in the 400 free relay.

Phelps has stated that relays were a major reason why he came back, and seeing the Americans lose the 800 free relay last August at the World Championships, not to mention missing the final in the 400 free relay, added a big fuel to his fire. Phelps’ underwater on his turn was the most “Phelpsian” thing we’ve seen from him in a while, as he is no doubt extremely motivated this summer.

Phelps swam second on the relay, not a place he has historically gone nor a spot usually fit for a star, but he was more than willing to swim there, and he delivered. He also swam in that spot four years ago in London, and gave the Americans a lead, like he did tonight, though back then the French caught them and the Americans settled for silver. Tonight it was nothing but gold for the US, with Phelps splitting three one-hundredths faster than four years ago in 47.12, the 4th fastest split in the entire field.

In his post race comments, Phelps made a point of mentioning that this was one race the Americans wanted to return to their soil. Phelps said “that’s one race we wanted to bring back to our soil. We had a sour taste in our mouths…at least I did after 2012, and I’m glad it’s back on American soil.”

Phelps now extends his lead in all-time Olympic gold medals to ten with his 19th win, trailed by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina who won nine between 1956 and 1964. He also won his record 23rd Olympic medal, now five up on Latynina’s 18.

Joining Phelps on that relay were Caeleb Dressel and Ryan Held, both first-time Olympians, who had strong legs of 48.10 (lead-off) and 47.73. Anchoring was 2012 100 free gold medallist Nathan Adrian, who got the job done in 46.97.

Along with Phelps and the relay, there were some other big performances from North America on day two. Let’s take a look:

  • Katie Ledecky smashed her own world record in the 400 free by nearly two seconds, winning the U.S.’ first gold medal in the pool. It’s her second career Olympic gold, and she is now 13-for-13 in major individual finals.
  • Penny Oleksiak broke the junior world and Canadian records in the 100 fly, winning silver and earning her second medal of the Games at just 16. She is the first Canadian female to win an individual Olympic swimming medal since 1996, and the first Canadian to win an Olympic butterfly medal since 1972. She joins an elusive group of swimmers to own multiple Olympic medals at 16, including Kristina Egerszegi and Shane Gould.
  • North Americans won three other medals on day one, all by Americans and all bronze. Dana Vollmer did so in the 100 fly, as did Leah Smith in the 400 free and Cody Miller in the 100 breast. Miller also set a new American record.
  • Along with Oleksiak, Brittany Maclean and Kylie Masse both set new Canadian records today too. Maclean did so this morning in the 400 free prelims in 4:03.43, advancing to the final where she ultimately finished 5th. Masse tied her own record of 59.06 to safely qualify for tomorrow night’s final in the 100 back.
  • The Canadian men had an impressive showing qualifying for the 400 free relay final, ultimately finishing 7th.
  • We also saw ten other North Americans advance to the finals tomorrow night of their respective event (11 including Masse). Conor Dwyer and Townley Haas did so in the 200 free, David Plummer and Ryan Murphy took the top two spots in the 100 back, and Kathleen Baker and Olivia Smoliga took spots #1 and #8 respectively to advance in the women’s 100 back. Half of tomorrow’s 100 breast final for women will be North American with Lilly King and Katie Meili of the USA, Rachel Nicol of Canada and Alia Atkinson of Jamaica.
  • Kevin Cordes finished 4th in the 100 breast, just shy of a medal in his first ever Olympic event.

Here’s a look at the swimming medal table for North American countries after day 2:
















The Americans had a dominant day 2, winning 2 golds and three silvers to take the overwhelming lead in total medals with 8, and tying Australia for golds with 2. The Canadians added a silver to their bronze from last night, tying them with Great Britain and Japan for 3rd overall.

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alia fan

yay alia!

Naya Missy

I was absolutely blown away by this relay. Dressel and Held were amazing, and Adrian as usual delivered a sub-47 anchor, but I was not sure what to expect from Phelps since he hasn’t raced a 100 free in quite a while. His underwaters off his turn was absolutely phenomenal. To all the haters who didn’t believe Phelps shouldn’t have swam this relay, he really delivers at the right moment. I can’t wait to see his next few races.

James Bogen

Here was a preview from about a week ago. Phelps went around 48.3 from a flat start.


That turn was 2007 level Phelps. What a victory this was. Held and Dressel deliver on the biggest stage in their first international final. And Adrian and Phelps finally recapture what has eluded them since 09. They’ve worked very hard for this.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James formerly competed for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in February of 2018, placing 11th at the OUA Championships in the 200 IM, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in May. He …

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