ArticlesAug 03 2012
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
August 2, 2012
The 2012 London Olympics was always Michael Phelps’ time. He just let his swimming do his talking.
In the long-awaited 200-meter individual medley final showdown between Phelps and eight-year rival Ryan Lochte on the sixth night of swimming at the Aquatics Centre, Phelps reigned supreme by winning the gold medal to extend his gold medal count to 16 and record total 20. It was his first individual gold medal of the Games.
“Obviously, it’s a relief to win an individual gold, it’s something pretty special,” Phelps said. “Once the Games are over, it is really going to hit me emotionally. It is really emotional for my mother. After Sunday, there will be no more competitive swimming, I will be retired.”
Phelps, the two-time Olympic champion in the event, became the first male swimmer to three-peat in the 200 IM at the Olympic Games.
Phelps looked like his vintage self taking the lead on the first leg and never letting go for the win in 1:54.27, a 0.63 second cushion over Lochte, who took silver in 1:54.90. Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh won the bronze in 1:56.22.
Phelps had beaten Lochte in this event at the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha.
“Ryan has probably been one of the toughest competitors to swim against,” Phelps said after their final race. “Ryan and I have had a lot of good races. We have had a fun career with one another, we do push each other. He has brought the best out of me many times.”
Lochte was coming off the 200-meter backstroke final where he managed a bronze medal 30 minutes earlier and was upstaged by U.S. teammate Tyler Clary, 23, who put on a late charge to win the gold in an Olympic record 1:53.41. Five different Americans have won the event in five Olympics.
Lochte, the defending Olympic and reigning world champion in the event, finished in 1:53.94, his 12th of
13 races in the Games. Japan’s Ryosuke Irie took the silver in 1:53.78.
“I don’t really know what to say right now, I am shocked,” said a stunned Clary. “You always think about having a result like that. The first time it happens, it’s incredible. You can wake me up now. That was the perfect race I swam tonight.
“That’s not how I planned on the race playing out at all, but I stuck to my game plan and it worked out for me this time. I knew it was in the realm of possibility but I knew it was going to be a dogfight. I have been taking second and third places for so long, it’s tough sometimes but it also makes moments like these that much more sweet.”
It was Lochte’s final night of competition at the Games. He finished with five medals (two gold, two silver, one bronze) and unfulfilled expectations. He had wanted six golds. “A little bit above average,” he called it. The Games’ biggest cover boy failed to live up to the hype and finished second fiddle to Phelps again.
“Going into every Olympics, I always feel like it’s my time, I always think that I can win every time I go on the blocks,” Lochte said. “I had some ups and downs at these Olympics but for the most part I’m pretty satisfied. I wanted to get all golds in my events but it did not happen. I’m going to have to live with that, move on and learn from it. I am going to try and not make the same mistakes in the next four years for Rio.”
Lochte, who turns 28 on Friday, said he will miss Phelps.
“He is the toughest racer I ever had to deal with,” Lochte said. “Our rivalry has definitely helped out a lot. We have been racing for eight years now. The rivalry that we created has been tremendous for the sport. I’m going to miss racing him.”
In the women’s competition, 25-year-old American breaststroker Rebecca Soni broke her own world record for the second time in two days to defend her title in the 200-meter breaststroke.
Less than a day after breaking the world record in 2:20, Soni came back to break the 2:20 barrier winning the gold in 2:19.59. No woman has won the breaststroke event in back-to-back Olympics.
“I can’t believe it,” Soni said. “I am so excited. I did it. Oh my gosh, I’ve been chasing that for years and years. That was my coach back when I was in high school who told me I was going to go 2:19. I’ve been keeping that to myself as a secret goal. That was my career on the line right there.
“The 200 is tricky because I feel like I have to take it out calmly and slowly, so it’s not like the 100 where you just got it from the beginning,” Soni said. “It’s all about being fluid and getting through the water smoothly. If I try harder I don’t go as fast. I did not really know I was on world record pace. I just wanted to finish strong.”
Japan’s Satomi Suzuki took silver in an Asian record 2:20.72 and Russian Yulia Efimova took bronze in a European record 2:20.92.
In the last final of the day, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, 21, of the Netherlands won her first individual gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle winning in an Olympic record and best time 53.00. Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus took silver in 53.38, the first in Olympic history for Belarus, and China’s Yi Tang took bronze in 53.44. Missy Franklin (fifth) and Jessica Hardy (eighth) were shut out of medals.
On Friday, Coral Springs Swim Club’s three-time Olympian Arlene Semeco of Venezuela will compete in the prelims of the 50-meter freestyle, her marquis event.
In other races Thursday:
Men’s 50-meter freestyle semifinals: Brazil’s Cesar Cielo and American Cullen Jones tied in the first heat in 21.54 and U.S. teammates Anthony Ervin finished third in 21.62. Brazilian Bruno Frotus was the fastest in the second heat in 21.63 followed by George Bovell of Trinidad and Tobago. Aussie James Magnussen failed to qualify placing 11th.
Women’s 200-meter backstroke semifinals: Florida Gator Elizabeth Beisel was the top seed in 2:06.18 followed by 17-year-old Missy Franklin in 2:06.84.
Men’s 100-meter butterfly semifinals: Phelps, who still could win two more medals before the Games end, was top qualifier in 50.86, fastest time in the world this year for Phelps. He is two-time defending gold medalist in the event.
In the aquatics medals table, the United States leads with 26 (11 gold, 8 silver and 7 bronze). China is second with 13 (8 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze). Australia has 8 silvers (1 gold, 5 silver, 2 bronze).
It took three matches but defending Olympic men’s champion Hungary won its first match of the Games with a hardfought 17-15 victory over Romania. Norbert Madaras scored seven goals for the Hungarians. Hungary had been winless in its first two games.