Tonight’s 8th session of swimming in London puts us past the halfway mark of this meet, and we’ve still got Michael Phelps looking for his first gold medal; headed into this point in 2008, he already had three in his pocket and took two more in the session. He’ll get chances in both the 200 fly final and the 800 free final, and if he makes top three in both, then he will have earned more medals than any Olympian in history.
That 800 free isn’t expected to live up to the excitement of the 400, partially because of less hype, but with the French swimming as well as they ever have at an Olympics they might give the Americans a race. See the lineups for the two favorites here.
Other big finals include the women’s 200 free, where all 8 swimmers have a chance at gold, or last; and the women’s 200 IM final where China’s Shiwen Ye will be chasing another World Record
Refresh the page frequently, as we’ll be adding recaps as the events happen.
Men’s 100 Free – Semi’s
Australia’s James Magnussen is back in his groove. Cleanly-shaven and perhaps humbled by his previous three swims in this meet, the prohibitive favorite swam very well in the first semi-final to take the top overall seed in 47.63. His teammate James Roberts couldn’t mirror his pick-me-up, and with a 48.57 is out of the final.
American Nathan Adrian, who has been good throughout this meet, broke 48 seconds for the first time in an individual swim with a 47.97 for the 2nd seed. Those are the only two under 48 seconds.
The third-seed overall might be a surprise, unless you’ve been paying very close attention for the last 9 months. Cuba’s Hanser Garcia, a 2011 Pan Am’s medalist, swam a 48.04 for the 3rd seed overall.
The Netherlands’ Sebastiaan Verschuren, often forgotten about despite finaling in this race last year, was just behind in 48.13, with Cesar Cielo, Brent Hayden, and Yannick Agnel all within two-tenths of that time.
The last finalist was Russia’s Nikita Lobintsev in 48.38, which is right on his best time of the season.
The brothers Shaune and Brett Fraser finished 15th and 16th, respectively.
Women’s 200 Free – Final
American Allison Schmitt did away with what was supposed to be a tight, tactical final by running away with this 200 free early, en route to a new Olympic and American Record of 1:53.61. She swam this race, in the middle-lane and center-stage, exactly how she wanted to: out in 55.38, but unlike Worlds last year didn’t give it back. She was the fastest in the final in both the third and fourth 50’s to take the win.
She took down the Olympic Record held by Federica Pellegrini of 1:54.82 in 2008, and the American Record that she set at Trials in 1:54.40.
If anybody were able to get that fast, speculation says it would’ve been 400 champion Camille Muffat of France, but she just couldn’t do anything after about the first 50 meters. She’ll settle for silver in 1:55.58, almost a second off of her season best. Australia’s Bronte Barratt, the top seed headed into these semifinals, was 3rd in 1:55.81. She again built this race and closed very well to overcome American Missy Franklin.
Franklin was denied her third medal by just .01 seconds, with a 1:55.82. Her focus this year seems to have really been on the backstrokes, so look for her to recover well in the 200 of that stroke. This time is actually slower than her world-leading mark in 2011, despite her obvious overall swimming improvements.
The rest of the field was well back, with Italy’s Federica Pellegrini 5th in 1:56.73, her second time in that position after winning two World titles last year. She was followed by Russia’s Veronika Popova (1:57.25), Britain’s Caitlin McClatchey (1:57.60), and Kylie Palmer (1:57.68).
Men’s 200 Fly – Final
A shot at history came up short in this men’s 200 fly, as Michael Phelps has once again been denied a gold medal. This time it was the young South African Chad le Clos who overtook the two-time defending champion, touching in 1:52.96 to Phelps’ 1:53.01 for a new African Record and his first ever.
Le Clos, just 20-years old, has had a lot of success in short course. He was the 2010 champion in this distance at the Short Course World Championships, and won the 2011 FINA World Cup Series. But this is by far his biggest achievement in long course (he did win the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold, but against a nearly invisible field).
His swim is a new African continental record, but most importantly gives him one of the biggest upsets of all time. Phelps, taking his 2nd silver of the meet, was denied from becoming the first man to ever win an event in three-straight Olympic Games. That’s the third time it’s been tried here in London, and the third time to come up short. Phelps was visibly frustrated after the race, and his cap could be seen flying about 5 meters across his lane after the race (though it wasn’t clear if it was intentional or simply the kinetic energy of a cap removed).
Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda continued his country’s dominance of the bronze medals by finishing 3rd in 1:53.21. Perhaps a dubious honor, that is Japan’s 5th bronze medal of the meet, which ties them with the Soviet Union for 5th on the all-time list at 26.
Austria’s Dinko Jukic closed very fast again, with a final 100 split of 59.2, but this time Matsuda was just as good. Jukic was 4th in 1:54.35.
As is so often the case in this 200 fly – there was no finals flop. Despite being such a difficult race, for some reason the men who swim it are always able to put up big times in the finals, and rarely add or have an obvious 8th-place finisher. Every single spot of this final was well-fought for.
Tyler Clary took 5th in 1:55.06, followed by Velimir Stjepanovic (1:55.07), Pawel Korzeniowski of Poland (1:55.08), and Yin Chen (1:55.18).
Women’s 200 Fly – Semifinal
American Kathleen Hersey continued to look incredible in this 200 fly field, as she was the only swimmer under 2:06 when she touched in 2:05.90 – another personal best time for her. Hersey goes out controlled, but efficiently, in this race, including a halfway turn of 1:00.49. But she doesn’t fade at the end – it’s obvious by her ability to maintain the same strong hip motions while most swimmers tense up and flatten out.
Hersey trains with the men at the University of Texas, and by all accounts is impressive even in their challenging practices. One of her training partners Tweeted after this swim that “if by ‘Kathleen Hersey gets pushed by the guys every day’ Rowdy (Gaines) means her wrecking us, then yes she gets pushed by us daily.”
There are plenty of other swimmers in this field, though, who are capable of going 2:04’s, so Hersey’s work is far from down. That includes China’s Liuyang Jiao in 2:06.10. She rocketed off of the last wall to tear to a win in heat 1.
Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi continued her breakout year with a 2:06.37 for 3rd – perhaps in position for another bronze medal in tomorrow’s final.
Mireia Belmonte-Garcia continues an up-and-down meet with a 2:06.62 for 4th, followed by Hungary’s Zsu Jakabos in 2:06.82. Jakabos was the only Hungarian to make the final, which is a bit of a surprise as her countrymate Katinka Hosszu was 9th and out of the final.
The World Record holder Lu Zige (2:06.99), American Cammile Adams (2:07.33), and Britain’s Jemma Lowe (2:07.37) rounded out the top 8.
Men’s 200 Breast – Semifinal
As Phelps’ second chance at history faded away, Kosuke Kitajima stayed in the hunt for his third straight title with a 2:09.03.
Though still in the hunt, he’s far from a favorite at this point. Britain’s Michael Jamieson gave his country their best shot at gold yet with a 2:08.20 to place as the top qualifier coming out of the semi-finals. That crushes his own National Record and moves him to 8th on the all-time list. His countrymate Andrew Willis was just behind him in 2:08.47 for the 3rd seed, which also would have been under the old National Record of 2:08.98.
In between the pair was Hungarian Daniel Gyurta in 2:08.32. Despite being a touch slower than Jamieson, he still has to be the favorite after a closing 50 half-a-second faster than either of the Brits.
American Scott Weltz had a much better swim than the prelims and pushed himself to a new personal best with a 2:08.99 for the 4th seed. He swims his race very much like all of the other stars, with a great closing 50. Kitajima was 5th, and Clark Burckle went his second best time in two rounds with a 2:09.11. Ryo Tateishi and Brenton Rickard round out the final.
Both Germans, who had been so lethal this year, missed out on the final with 2:10-mids.
Women’s 200 IM – Final
China’s Ye Shiwen was again outstanding in completing a sweep of the Olympic IM medals with a textile-best and new Olympic Record of 2:07.57. This marks the 5th-straight Olympics at which the women’s IM’s have been swept, following:
2008: Stephanie Rice, Australia
2004: Yana Klochkova, Ukraine
2000: Yana Klochkova, Ukraine
1996: Michelle Smith, Ireland
Ye’s swim was amazing, though compared to Ariana Kukors’ World Record, it in the least still appears mortal. The difference between this swim and her two in the earlier rounds was a 29.32 on the closing 50, the fastest in history (controlling for races that qualify as “great”). Her overall improvement from last year to this year in this 200 IM, though, came in the first 150 meters rather than her famous final 50 – which was almost the same as when she swam a 2:08.90 at Worlds.
This time was a new Olympic Record as well, bettering her own swim from the semi-finals.
Australia’s Alicia Coutts pushed Ye the whole way, and valiantly held her off for the first 20 meters of the freestyle leg. Ultimately, though, she couldn’t put the Chinese 16-year old away, and took silver in 2:08.15. That ranks her 5th on the all-time list. Her closing 50 of 29.91 was quite impressive as well, and one of the few in history under 30 seconds.
American Caitlin Leverenz gave away a big opportunity on her breaststroke-to-freestyle turn. She was awesome through 150, including a typically-fast breaststroke split to break open a lead, but she seemed a bit slow into the wall. Her head seemed about a meter ahead of the competition, but the clock registered only a three-tenths advantage, which is not nearly enough to hold off a pair of closers like Coutts and Ye. She’s now the second-fastest American in history with a 2:08.95.
Australian defending champ Stephanie Rice fought through her shoulder injury as well as we’ve seen her do yet in 2012, to a 4th-place. She did what she needed to do in this swim – and what has been missing – by sprinting out to a 27.9 fly split and an early lead. She has been very cautious with her butterfly since a second surgery, but attacked it big in this race. Her breaststroke, in exchange, suffered and she couldn’t run down Leverenz for a medal.
Kukors, the World Record holder, placed 5th in 2:09.83 in what was her first ever Olympic final. Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry was 6th in 2:11.13, followed by Hannah Miley (2:11.29) and Katinka Hosszu (2:14.19).
Men’s 800 Free Relay – Final
The Americans led off with a pair of Florida Gators. The French centered with a pair of USC Trojans. But in the end, it was a Texas Longhorn who broke this men’s 800 free wide open.
Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer gave the Americans a solid lead after 400 meters, but not yet insurmountable. But Ricky Berens, whose presence on this relay many were doubting coming into the race, silenced his critics with a 1:45.27 to hand Michael Phelps an insurmountable four-second lead.
That doesn’t mean Phelps was complacent, however. He was shooting for his 19th Olympic medal, which would give him the most of any Olympian in any sport and from any country, and he lwas willing to leave no doubts. He anchored the United States in a 1:45.05, easily shrugging off his 200 fly disappointment, to give the Americans a third-straight gold medal in 6:59.70, just the fourth relay in history to go under 7 minutes. Phelps and Lochte have been on this squad each of the last three Olympics, giving them at least a relay three-peat. The American splits:
1. Ryan Lochte – 1:45.15
2. Conor Dwyer – 1:45.23
3. Ricky Berens – 1:45.27
4. Michael Phelps – 1:44.05
The French silver medalists in 7:02.77 had the same last two as they had in the 400 free relay, and the pair was again outstanding. This time, however, the Americans were in their own wheelhouse and weren’t going to be caught. The French splits, en route to a new French National Record, and the country’s first medal in this relay since 1952 in Helsinki:
1. Amaury Leveaux – 1:46.70
2. Gregory Mallet – 1:46.83
3. Clement Lefert – 1:46.00
4. Yannick Agnel – 1:43.24
China, anchored by their star Sun Yang, was able to overtake a front-loaded German relay with a 1:45.65 anchor to give them a bronze in 7:06.30. That’s their first-ever Olympic relay medal in what has been a ground-breaking meet on the men’s side.
As mentioned, Germany, who’s been so-so but overall disappointing, was 4th in 7:06.59. They were followed by Australia (7:07.00), Great Britain (7:09.33), South Africa (7:09.65), and Hungary (7:13.66).