ArticlesAug 01 2012
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
July 31, 2012
It was Michael Phelps’ time Tuesday night at the London Aquatics Centre.
Phelps, 27, of North Baltimore Aquatic Club, swam into Olympic record books and became the greatest Olympian of all time reaching a record 19 medals over four Olympics.
With Phelps swimming anchor leg, the U.S. men won the 800-meter freestyle relay to give Phelps his first gold medal of the London Olympics and record 19th medal to overtake previous leader, legendary Soviet
gymnast Larissa Latynina who has 18. He joins an elite list of medal winners that also includes Paavo
Nurmi of Finland, 12; Mark Spitz, 11; and Carl Lewis, 10.
Since 2000, the four-time Olympic legend now has an incredible 15 gold medals, two silver and two bronze medals.
After his relay finish, a relaxed and smiling Phelps leaned on the red lane line soaking up the moment.
“I started smiling in the last 20 meters because I knew we had it won,” Phelps said. “It was a special moment, it’s really special. This has been an amazing ride. This is still fun for me.
“The biggest thing I’ve always said is anything is possible. I’ve put my mind on doing something nobody has ever done before and there is nothing that was going to stand in my way of being the first Michael Phelps.
“There are a lot of emotions that are going through my head right now. There are still other races and that’s the one thing that I have on my mind.”
Phelps has the 200 individual medley, 100 butterfly and 4x100 relay remaining this week.
Earlier in the evening, Phelps tied Latynina with 18 medals taking the silver in a heartbreaking 200-meter butterfly loss, an event he has owned since 2003. It was the first time he lost the event in a world or Olympic competition in nine years.
South Africa’s 20-year-old Chad Le Clos knocked Phelps off, out-touching him by 5/100ths of a second in a national record time of 1:52.96. Phelps finished second in 1:53.01.
“It’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a little boy,” Le Clos said of the gold medal. “I just wanted to race Phelps in the final and I’ve beaten him. I didn’t really think I was going to win the race. I can’t believe it. He is my hero. I love the guy. This is the greatest moment of my life.”
The U.S. men’s relay had a great moment when it crushed the field with Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer and Ricky Berens, making his Olympic final relay debut. Berens had a full body-length lead (2.74 second advantage) headed into the wall to set up Phelps anchor relay. The relay won in 6:50.70. France was second and China third.
At 24, Berens, a two-time Olympian, announced that he is retiring from the sport. Berens plans to get his masters in sports management.
Phelps teammate in Baltimore, Allison Schmitt swam an Olympic and American record 1:53.61 to win her first individual gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle. “I couldn’t be happier, this is a dream come true,” Schmitt said. Camille Muffat of France was second in 1:55.58 and Aussie Bronte Barratt took the bronze in 1:55.81 and edged Missy Franklin, fourth in 1:55.82.
Going into the final 50, Schmitt had a full body length lead. She now has won a gold, silver and bronze.
In the women’s 200-meter individual medley, China’s 16-year-old Ye Shiwen, who came under scrutiny when she won the 400 IM in a world record, came from behind with a great freestyle leg split of 29.32 to win the 200 IM in an Olympic record 2:07.57.
Some coaches, including SwimFast coach and ASCA head John Leonard has called her race disturbing. Others say her swims were enhanced by drugs. However, the International Olympic Committee came out in her defense on Tuesday saying that she has not failed any drug tests. Other coaches have rallied around the soft-spoken Chinese teenager saying when others swam well and won gold including Schmitt, she wasn’t questioned or accused of taking drugs.
“We need to get real here,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “These are the world’s best athletes competing at the very highest level. We have seen all sorts of records broken already all over the place.
“We can’t stop speculation. It is inevitably a sad result of the fact that there are people who dope and who cheat,” Adams said. “It’s very sad that we can’t applaud a great performance. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the athletes.”
Aussie Alicia Coutts took the silver in 2:08.15 and American Caitlin Leverenz took the bronze in 2:08.95, her first medal in an international meet.
Defending Olympic champion Stephanie Rice was fourth in 2:09.55 and world record holder Ariana Kukors of Bolles was fifth in 2:09.83.
In other events Tuesday night:
Men’s 100-meter freestyle semifinals: Aussie James Magnussen will be in Lane 4 after having the fastest time of 47.63 as top qualifier. Brazil’s Cesar Cielo and Yannick Agnel of France also qualified along with Cuba’s Hanser Garcia.
Women’s 200-meter butterfly final: American Kathleen Hersey posted a textile-best 2:05.90 to earn the top qualifying spot.
Men’s 200-meter breaststroke semifinals: Michael Jamieson of Great Britain had the fastest qualifying time of 2:08.20.
On Wednesday, three-time Olympians Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and Arlene Semeco of Venezuela and Coral Springs Swim Club will compete. Atkinson, after a fourth-place finish in the 100-meter breaststroke, will swim in the 200-meter breaststroke prelims. Semeco will compete in the 100-meter freestyle prelims.
In the aquatic medal count, the U.S. leads with 18 and China has 10. Each team has six gold medals.
China claimed its third diving gold medal on women’s 10-meter synchro with Chen Ruolin and Wang Hao. The pair totaled 368.40 points, more than 25 points ahead of silver medalist Mexico. Chen, 19, is the defending Olympic champion in both the individual and synchro platform events. Her teammate overcame knee and eye injuries to return to gold medal form. Paola Espinosa and Alejandra Orozco took the silver with 343.32 points. Canada’s Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion took the bronze with 337.62. The U.S. did not qualify a women’s team.