Michael Phelps owned the pools in Beijing winning eight gold medals. He set the same goals for London 2012 but with his fellow countryman and friendly rival Ryan Lochte training hard and beating him in two races at the world championships the bar was certainly set high for these Olympics.
Phelps sure didn’t start the competition well barely qualifying for the men’s 400m individual medley. In the final of the event Phelps, surprisingly, didn’t even medal, with Lochte absolutely obliterating the rest of the swimmers to win his first gold in London.
In the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay, USA were favourites to win with Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps swimming in the team. However, the French had felt that they were robbed last year when they were surpassed by the US in the last 50 meteres to finish second. This time around though, a sense of deja vu occurred when Ryan Lochte blew a lead in the final 50 metres and was beaten by milliseconds by French swimmer Yannick Agnel. Putting the French atop the gold podium with the US having to look up at them in silver.
Ryan Lochte being the favourite to possibly emulate the impossible gold medal tally that Phelps had achieved in 2008 failed to medal in the 200m freestyle, with Frenchman Yannick Agnel again finishing first.
On the fourth day of the competition Phelps finally won his first gold of the games in the men’s 4x200m relay. No only was this his first gold in London, but it was also his 19th medal of all time, making him the most decorated Olympian in the history of the games. Phelps also almost became the first person to win gold in the same event in three separate Olympics, the 200m butterfly. He came so close, leading until the last 25 metres where he lost by a whisker.
American duo, Matthew Grevers and Nick Thoman, finished first and second respectively in the Men’s 100m backstroke on the fourth day.
The US women have also been doing well in swimming with 17 year old Missy Franklin winning her first gold in the 100m backstroke. Dana Vollmer and Allison Schmitt have also each won gold, the former in the 100m butterfly and the latter in the 200m freestyle.
The Chinese swimmers have done surprisingly well considering that they definitely weren’t swimming powerhouses in the last few Olympics. Sixteen year old Chinese female swimmer Ye Shiwen completed a stunning race in the women’s 400m individual medley smashing the world record by more than a second. What made her swim even more impressive is the fact that in the final 50m of the race, she actually beat Ryan Lochte’s time in his gold medal swim earlier. In the final 100 metres of the race, Ye clocked a time of 58.68 where as Lochte swam a time of 58.65. Of course with this startling time, the Chinese teenager was embroiled in controversy with many people claiming that she has used performance enhancing drugs. This was inevitable with China’s shady past in the use of PEDs for their swimmers in 1980s and 90s. What also didn’t help was the fact that five junior Chinese swimmers were banned after using PED’s in 2009.
Amid all the controversy, Ye Shiwen again broke a record (Olympic record this time) in the 200m individual medley on the fourth day.
Male swimmer Yang Sun has also fared well for the Chinese winning one of each medal thus far.
The Australians, probably fielding their weakest swim team in a number of years have not been up to par in London. The women have won one gold medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay, but that has been their only gold so far in swimming and in fact the whole Olympics. Alicia Coutts has one silver and one bronze as well as her relay gold. Bronte Barrat has a bronze, Emily Seebohn has a silver and Christian Sprenger has a silver being the only Aussie bloke to medal so far in the games.
Overall, an interesting start to the Olympic swimming, filled with tight races and plenty of surprising results. However, there are still many more races to come with plenty of medals to be won. We can only hope it continues to be as exciting as it has been.
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