Soni wins gold, breaks world record in 200m breast
LONDON – American swimmers won five medals – three gold, a silver and a bronze – Thursday at the 2012 Olympic Games. Leading the way was Rebecca Soni, who won gold and set a world record in the women’s 200m breaststroke with a time of 2:19.59.
Tyler Clary and Michael Phelps also won gold in the men’s 200m backstroke and 200m IM, respectively. Clary’s time of 1:53.41 in the 200m back set an Olympic record.
Phelps’s effort established another first in his career: he is now the first male swimmer to defend the same individual Olympic title in three consecutive Games. His time in the 200m IM was 1:54.27.
Also winning medals for the U.S. Thursday was Ryan Lochte, who took silver in the men’s 200m IM in 1:54.90 and bronze in the men’s 200m back in 1:53.94.
The Americans’ medal count in the pool now stands at 23 – 11 gold, 7 silver and 5 bronze
Women’s 200m Breaststroke
Soni’s race in the women’s 200m breaststroke unfolded in pretty much the same way every race in this event has unfolded for her since she won gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Second at the first turn, Soni began to pull away from the pack at the 100-meter mark. She built that lead heading down the third length, and by the final 50 the closest swimmers in the field were at her heels.
Japan’s Satomi Suzuki finished more than a second behind for silver in 2:20.72, followed by Russia’s Iuliia Effimova for bronze in 2:20.92. Soni’s teammate, Micah Lawrence was sixth in 2:23.27.
“The 200 is tricky, because I feel I have to take it out calmly and slowly,” Soni said. “A lot of times if I try to swim harder, I don’t go as fast. Tonight, I saw I was ahead, so I thought to myself, ‘OK, world record last night, gold medal tonight. When I touched the wall, I was afraid to look at the clock, but it was OK.”
With that swim, Soni became the first woman to break 2:20 in the 200m breast. She also became first swimmer in London to defend an individual Olympic title from the 2008 Games in Beijing.
“It’s been my goal since I was a little kid to swim under 2:20,” Soni said. “My coach (back then) told me I was going to be the first woman to go under 2:20. I’ve been chasing it ever since, and I’m so happy.”
It was Soni’s second world record in as many days, having shattered the mark in this event in last night’s semifinals. She’s won two medals this week, including silver in the 100m breast on the third day of competition.
“I didn’t know if I could do it again tonight,” Soni said. “I went for it last night when there was a little less pressure. It’s a great feeling. It means so much because it’s been my goal since I began training again after Beijing.”
Men’s 200m Backstroke
The men’s 200m backstroke turned into a three-way race between Americans Tyler Clary and Ryan Lochte, and Japan’s Ryosuke Irie. Lochte and Irie were pretty much even at the 100-meter mark, with Clary trailing a close third.
Lochte pulled away from both swimmers slightly at the third turn, but Clary and Irie pulled even as they headed down the homestretch. As they neared the wall, Clary inched ahead for the win. Irie took silver in 1:53.78, while Lochte took bronze.
“There were a couple different ways I had foreseen that race playing out with regards to everyone else in the heat and the way things were at 100 meters,” Clary said. “It was going to be really tough to come back and get my hand on the wall, but I stuck to my guns and I was able to come back in those last few meters.
“That was the perfect race I swam tonight. It couldn’t have gone any better.”
The results were a reversal from last year’s world championships, where Lochte took gold and Clary took bronze. It was Clary’s first medal of the week and was his best showing at a major international meet.
“It’s kind of fun to know there are guys out there who are a little better than me,” Clary said of finishing behind Lochte in this event at the last few international meets. “It’s tough to swallow sometimes when you’re coming in second or third, but it makes moments like these much more sweet.”
Men’s 200m IM
The men’s 200m back was one of two finals for Lochte. He also faced off in a tough double against Phelps in the 200m IM. He had about 15 minutes between each swim.
Phelps was dominant from the start, taking a slight lead – as expected – in the fly leg and never looking back, building his distance on the rest of the field through the breaststroke and then bringing it home the final lap. Lochte finished second.
A familiar name – Laszlo Cseh of Hungary – was third in in 1:56.22. Phelps, Lochte and Cseh were also the medalists at the 2008 Games in this event, with Cseh winning silver four years ago and Lochte winning bronze.
Phelps has now won four medals in London, including a gold in the 800m free relay, and a silver in the 200m fly and 400m free relay. On Tuesday, he became the most-decorated Olympian in history. His career Olympic medal count now stands at 20 – 16 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze.
With Thursday’s win, Phelps was the second swimmer at the meet behind Soni to defend an individual Olympic title from Beijing. As mentioned earlier, he has now won the 200m IM in three consecutive Olympic Games.
“It’s a relief to win an individual gold,” Phelps said. “I might have been lucky that Ryan swam the 200 back beforehand.
“It’s pretty special to do the three-peat. To do something no male has done in the sport before is a pretty cool feeling.”
The 200m IM was Lochte’s last event of the meet. He’s won five medals overall. Including the two tonight, he’s also won gold in the 400m IM and 800m free relay, and a silver in the men’s 400m free relay.
“I’ve had some ups and downs at this Olympics, but for the most part, I’m satisfied,” Lochte said. “Doing doubles at a meet like the Olympics is hard, but that’s what I train for. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. I wanted to get gold in all my events, but I didn’t, and I’m OK with that.”
Tonight’s 200m IM was also the last time Phelps and Lochte will face off in the pool.
“The rivalry we created has been tremendous for the sport,” Lochte said. “The friendship we created has been awesome. I hope I still see him around. It’s going to be weird not to have him with me anymore.”
“Ryan and I had a lot of great races, going back to 2004,’ Phelps said. “We had a fun career together. Whenever we race each other, we leave it all in the pool. It’s going to be fun to watch what these guys do in the next four years.”
Women’s 100m Freestyle
The Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo won the women’s 100m free with an Olympic-record time of 53.00, followed by Belarus’s Aliaksandra Herasimenia for silver in 53.38 and China’s Tang Yi for bronze in 53.44. Americans Missy Franklin and Jessica Hardy were fifth and eighth in 53.64 and 54.02.
Americans swimming in semifinals Thursday included Cullen Jones in the men’s 50m free (tie for 1st with Brazilian Cesar Cielo, 21.54), Anthony Ervin in the men’s 50m free (3rd, 21.62), Elizabeth Beisel in the women’s 200m back (1st, 2:06.18), Missy Franklin in the women’s 200m backs (2nd, 2:06.84), Phelps in the men’s 100m fly (1st, 50.86) and Tyler McGill in the men’s 100m fly (3rd, 51.61).
The top eight swimmers in each event will compete in tomorrow night’s finals.