For those who think the Olympics doesn’t start until the track and field program gets underway in week two, they should get themselves down to the Aquatics Centre.
This Olympic swim meet has it all.
We had controversy earlier in the week with murmurings of suspicion surrounding the remarkable swims of Ye Shiwen.
On day four we saw history been made by the great Michael Phelps.
And tonight World and Olympic records tumbled.
The fact that Phelps isn’t at his dominant best has created an interesting narrative, as other athletes can swim out from under his massive shadow.
It was difficult to pick out the highlight from a jam-packed night of action in the pool on day five.
Six of the eight races tonight were utterly spell binding.
Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps set up a fascinating duel in the 200-meter individual medley, with Hungarian Laszlo Cseh splitting them in qualifying for tomorrow’s final.
Their semifinal panned out as expected, with Phelps leading the pack out on the butterfly and Lochte pulling him back on the back stroke.
Lochte utterly dominated on the breast stroke, following a smooth turn at the 100 meter mark, his body driving high out of the water.
Both swimmers conserved themselves on the last 50-meter freestyle, with qualification secured and Lochte eased home to qualify fastest.
The big question is can Phelps keep up with Lochte on the breast stroke in order to overpower him on the freestyle leg?
Laszlo Cseh may have something to say about the big two dominating the final after an impressive swim in the second semifinal to qualify second fastest.
The semifinal of the women’s 200-meter breast stroke saw Rebecca Soni destroy the field in a world record time of two minutes and 20 seconds flat, despite a less than perfect last turn and finish. The main question surrounding tomorrow’s final is whether she swims conservatively or aggressively to break that benchmark.
The other finalists are realistically only swimming for silver and bronze.
In the men’s 200-meter breast stroke final, Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta took gold in a world record time of two minutes, 7.28 seconds just fractionally ahead of Britain’s Michael Jamieson.
In the women’s 200-meter butterfly, China’s Jiao Liuyang won gold and broke the Olympic record. Liuyang swam a tactically astute race to reel in Spain’s Mireia Belmonte Garcia who had to be content with silver.
James "The Missile" Magnussen was the red-hot favourite to win the 100-meter freestyle. Australia has had a disappointing swim meet by their recent standards and this race was supposed to set the record straight.
In the second 50 meters, Magnussen appeared to be powering to a comfortable victory, but Nathan Adrian clung on. Crucially, Magnussen drifted slightly to the left when reaching out to touch, allowing Nathan Adrian to slice home one-hundredth of a second ahead.
Adrian won the gold for team USA in this event, for the first time since Matt Biondi in 1988. Canada’s Brett Hayden took the bronze.
The last race of the night, the women’s 4x200 relay was billed as a showdown between Australia and the US and it did not disappoint.
Missy Franklin was first into the water for Team USA and Dana Vollmer took over for the US in third position behind France’s Bonnet and Australia’s Schlanger.
France faded in the second leg and the race began to follow the script of the anticipated shootout between the US and Australia.
Vollmer briefly took the lead but like Franklin, Vollmer faded in the last 50 meters.
On the third leg, Australia’s Palmer hit the water 0.60 seconds ahead of Shannon Vreeland of the US.Palmer held off Vreeland to give Australia’s anchor Alicia Coutts a narrow advantage for the final lap but with Allison Schmitt anchoring for the US, this was not enough.
Schmitt was content to follow in Coutts’s slipstream for the first 50 meters, gradually reeling her in before easing past her on the second lap.
A brilliantly executed turn at the 100-meter mark gave Schmitt some clear water and an ever increasing lead in the final 100 meters. Schmitt powered home to ensure not only gold for the US but a new Olympic record of seven minutes, 42:92 seconds.
It finished off truly a remarkable night’s sport in the Aquatics Centre.
Roll on tomorrow night!
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