By Pedro Adrega and Camille Chappelet, Aug 11, 2016: Phelps continues to accumulate records, After his fourth consecutive Olympic title in the men’s 4x200m free, Michael Phelps continues to accumulate records. Tonight, in the sixth session of finals at the Rio 2016 Games, the best athlete in history managed the same feat in the 200m IM: after the gold in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, the 31-year-old from Baltimore got his 26th medal and 22nd gold, touching home in 1:54.66.
All the adjectives have been used to describe this enormous legend in Swimming, but for this particular race will stay in everyone’s mind the last 50m, a freestyle leg that definitively decided the outcome of the race in his favour. Phelps was also world champion in this event at the 2003, 2005 and 2007 FINA World Championships. Moreover, this is his fourth gold in these Games, after the titles in the 200m butterfly, 4x100m free and 4x200m free.
His greatest rival in recent years, teammate Ryan Lochte (world gold medallist in the last four editions of FINA’s major showcase) had the second time of the semis, but in the decisive race had to content with the fifth place, in a modest time of 1:57.47 (Lochte is the world record holder, in 1:54.00, from 2011). The minor medals went then to Kosuke Hagino (JPN, silver, 1:56.61) and to Wang Shun (CHN, bronze, 1:57.05).
In the women’s 100m free, the surprise came from 20-year-old Simone Manuel (USA) and 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak (CAN), who shared the gold in a new Olympic record of 52.70. They slightly improved the previous mark established by Cate Campbell in the semis of the event, when she clocked 52.71. The Australian (2013 world champion and current world record holder in 52.06) did not medal in Rio, finishing the decisive race in sixth (53.24). Her sister Bronte (gold medallist in Kazan 2015) also missed the podium, concluding in fourth (53.04). The bronze went to Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), in 52.99. Curiously, 32 years ago, at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, two US swimmers had also shared the gold in this event – Carrie Steinseifer and Nancy Hogshead had then clocked 55.92! Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED), the 2012 Olympic champion, had a disappointing performance in Rio, finishing in fifth, in a time of 53.08.
The session had started with the women’s 200m breaststroke, where a convincing Rie Kaneto, from Japan, got the gold in 2:20.30. The Asian swimmer had already the best time of 2016 in 2:19.65. Yulia Efimova (RUS), silver medallist of the 100m in Rio, got another medal of the same colour, touching in 2:21.97. The Russian swimmer was the2013 world champion and third in the Olympic final in London 2012. The bronze in Rio went to Shi Jinglin (CHN), also third at the 2015 Worlds and fourth in the previous edition of the Games. Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN), the world record holder in 2:19.11, and medallist in the last two World Championships, finished eighth in 2:23.74.
Among men, the first winner of the night was Ryan Murphy (USA, already 2016 Olympic 100m gold medallist) in the 200m backstroke. Swimming in lane 6, next to 2015 world champion Mitch Larkin (AUS), the North American controlled operations and touched for gold in 1:53.62, leaving the Australian with the silver in 1:53.96. Evgeny Rylov completed the podium, earning bronze in 1:53.97. The Russian had been also third at the 2015 Worlds in Kazan, while Larkin was the last of the final four years ago in London. The deception of the night must have been felt by Japan’s Ryosuke Irie, runner-up in 2012, and bronze medallist at the 2009 and 2011 Worlds – he finished this time in eighth, in a time of 1:56.36.
In semi-final action, the reigning Olympic and world champion in the men’s 50m free, Florent Manaudou (FRA), was the fastest qualifier for the decisive race in 21.32, quite close from the Olympic record established by Brazil’s Cesar Cielo (not qualified for these Games) in Beijing 2008, in a time of 21.30. Nathan Adrian, the second in Kazan 2015 is the fourth so far (21.47), while the 2013 vice-champion Vladimir Morozov (RUS) will not swim the final, after being only 10th (21.88). In the women’s 200m backstroke, Katinka Hosszu (HUN) was the strongest of the field in 2:06.03, while 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Kirsty Coventry (ZIM, sixth) will swim another Olympic final at almost 33.
The shock of the night was the non-qualification of the 2012 Olympic champion and world record holder, US Missy Franklin, who finished in an unusual 14th place (2:09.74). Finally, in the men’s 100m fly, Phelps made the necessary effort to qualify for the final, clocking the fifth time of the semis, in 51.58. Singapore’s Joseph Schooling is the fastest so far, in 50.83. If Phelps wins the 100m fly in Rio, it will also be his fourth consecutive victory at the Olympics in this event. —- FINA