Missy Franklin leads U.S. backstrokers with gold medal | Olympic swimming
A night that started with disappointment — if Ryan Lochte's fourth place in Monday's first Olympic swimming final can be called that...
The Washington Post
LONDON — A night that started with disappointment — if Ryan Lochte's fourth place in Monday's first Olympic swimming final can be called that — concluded with a barrage of medals for the United States swim team and a few strange moments that generated what resembled a medley of emotions.
There was Lochte's shock at missing the medal podium in the 200-meter freestyle, an event in which he is the reigning world champion. Then came pure delight from Missy Franklin, 17, who won her first Olympic gold medal after a hasty and unusual preparation.
She claimed the first of three backstroke medals — Matt Grevers and Nick Thoman got the gold and silver in the men's 100 — for the United States.
Momentary embarrassment touched U.S. breaststroker Breeja Larson, who accidentally jumped into the pool before the 100 breaststroke final, a race won by 15-year-old Ruta Meilutyte from Lithuania. That speedy youngster left reigning world champion Rebecca Soni surprised — and wearing a silver medal for the second straight Olympic Games.
"This is just an incredibly fast Olympics," said Grevers, who won his race in 52.16, an Olympic record. "To win a medal, it's not an easy thing to do."
All things considered, the United States punched out a great night. There were two golds and two silvers to balance out Lochte's bruised ego. "Not so happy about that swim tonight," Lochte said via Twitter after the race.
The competition actually began when Franklin swam in the semifinals of the 200 freestyle. Hoping to conserve energy for the 100 backstroke final, which took place about 14 minutes later, Franklin posted the eighth-best time, barely qualifying for Tuesday's final.
But she did. Then she got out of the water and hurried — not to the distant practice pool, but to the diving well that sits next to the competition pool. There, she did a short warm-down swim. Or was it a warm-up swim? Whatever it was, it was quick.
"There's no words that can fully describe what she was going through, what she pulled off, and how it affected all of our team," said Tyler Clary, who along with Michael Phelps advanced to the 200 butterfly Tuesday in a late semifinal.
Franklin not only made it to the starting blocks on time, but she also came back to upset Australia's Emily Seebohm, who had posted the fastest time in the event this year. A quarter of a second behind at the turn, Franklin touched the wall in 58.33. Seebohm clocked a 58.68. Joy registered on Franklin's face.
"I saw that board, I saw the number 1," Franklin said. "It doesn't seem real. I've dreamed about it so often. You still feel like you're dreaming."
For Lochte, whose event was sandwiched between Franklin's pair, the evening played out like a nightmare. Last week, he pronounced himself ready to dominate as he had at last year's world championships, winning five gold medals and one bronze. But after a victory in the 400 individual medley Saturday, Lochte was overtaken Sunday night on the anchor leg of the 4x100 freestyle relay. Then, Monday night, he got left behind in the 200 free.
It wasn't close. France's Yannick Agnel, who had chased Lochte down in the relay, crushed the field, winning in 1:43.14. South Korea's Park Tae-Hwan finished in 1:44.93 and China's Sun Yang, 1:44.93. Lochte finished in 1:45.04 — 0.60 seconds slower than he went at last year's world championships.
"I guess I took it out a little too fast," Lochte said. "I'll live and learn."
Auburn's Ariana Kukors qualified for the final in the women's 200 individual medley.
Kukors swam the fourth-fastest time in the semifinals at 2:10.08. China's Ye Shiwen set an Olympic record of 2:08.39.