Monday, July 30, 2012

London 2012: Day Three Finals

Another stunning session has come to a close in London. For starters, take a look at what 200 back Olympic Trials finalist Jacob Pebley had to say about day three and the meet so far overall:
“Watching how unpredictable these Olympics are [is] going makes Michael Phelps' '08 8 golds look that much cooler.”
Oh yes, anyone trying to predict these Olympics – including me – most likely failed miserably. In tonight’s first final, Yannick Agnel put on a show and took the gold in 1:43.14, the third-fastest time ever. Before last night’s final, that performance would have stunned the swimming community. After his 46.74 split anchoring the 400 free relay, nothing Yannick Agnel does can surprise anyone. He dominated the entire race, and no one else ever had a chance at gold. Agnel enters the 100 free as a favorite for gold after entering as an outside medal chance, and he holds the key to a potential French gold in the 800 free relay.

Yes, that’s right, France enters the 800 free relay as a slight favorite over the Americans. Agnel leads a team consisting of 400 free relay stars Clement Lefert and Amaury Leveaux and 200 free semi-finalist Gregory Mallet. The U.S., meanwhile, must count on Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, who finished a very disappointing fourth in the individual 200, along with Ricky Berens and probably Conor Dwyer. That sounds like a ton of firepower, but Phelps and Lochte must put their disappointments this meet behind them for a chance at gold.

What happened to Lochte? He finished fourth in 1:45.03, just behind the pair of Sun Yang and Park Tae Hwan, who dead-heated for second in 1:44.93. Remember, Lochte won the World title last year in 1:44.44. Lochte reportedly put in more and more extra training this year in hopes of a stunning Olympic performance. A fourth place-finish doesn’t exactly contribute to that. We’ll need to see how Lochte responds, now, in the relay tomorrow and in his two more individual events.

Entering the meet and after the 200 IM, some considered Ryan Lochte “the new Michael Phelps.” After a blowout win in the 400 IM in 4:05.13, the entire world jumped onto the Lochte train. Now, though, Lochte finds himself on the outside looking in for one of the glamor events in swimming. That’s just four years after Phelps won the 200 free by almost two seconds. Phelps displayed some sort of ridiculous dominance in four individual events before squeaking out the win in another by just one one-hundredth of a second. There’s no Michael Phelps of these Olympics. The world may never see one again.

One year ago, Missy Franklin became a superstar. Tonight, Missy Franklin became the best female swimmer in the world. She opened the night in the women’s 200 free, where she cruised to the eighth-qualifying spot. Next, with just ten minutes until the 100 back final, Franklin swam a couple warm-down laps in the diving pool. Now, the Americans won their second medal in diving today, winning bronze in the men’s synchro platform. Maybe the diving pool has some friendly water in it or something because the performance that followed stunned the world.

Remember, Franklin had just one heat in between her 200 free semi-final and the 100 back final. She entered that final a heavy underdog to Emily Seebohm, who had twice earlier threatened the world record. Franklin, meanwhile, hadn’t swum within three-quarters of a second of Seebohm’s Olympic record of 58.23. Still, Franklin refused to back down. She went out fast and turned in second. Missy Franklin can finish, and finish she did. In 58.33, Franklin stunned Seebohm and the world with a new American record. That all came after the announcers claimed her decision to swim both events to be a bad one “in hindsight.”

That 200 free? Missy Franklin will swim from lane eight as a heavy underdog once again. Bronte Barratt surprisingly earned the top seed after chasing down favorites Allison Schmitt and Camille Muffat at the end of their semi-final. Olympic champ Federica Pellegrini got into the final as the fourth seed. None of those four should take their eyes off last year’s World leader out in lane eight. Franklin stunned the world with her 1:55.06 last year, and she could pull off just the same feat in the final. World, watch out; Missy Franklin has potentially three more finals left.

To be continued with my thoughts on the night’s remaining races, including the first 1-2 finish of the Games

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