In Olympic history, only two men have ever won more than two individual Olympic gold medals in swimming at the same Olympics – Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps; tomorrow, a new member could join that club. Ryan Lochte enters the finals as the favorite in the finals of both the 200 back and 200 IM. Sure, Tyler Clary took the top seed in the 200 back in a fast 1:54.71 after shutting off the gas down the stretch, and world leader Ryosuke Irie will swim on the other side of Lochte, I think Lochte has enough power on his turns to pull ahead and take the gold in a 1:53-low.
Expect an extremely interesting race in the men’s 200 IM, where Lochte faces the great Michael Phelps, along with Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and Brazil’s Thiago Pereira. That foursome finished within the top five at the 2004 Olympics and made up the top four four years ago in Beijing. Lochte looked like he had control in the semi-finals, and Phelps didn’t bother going after his countryman after Lochte established control of their semi-final heat on the breaststroke. Expect Lochte to take this title tomorrow, and Phelps should have enough in the tank to take a silver medal.
Normally, I’d say the dynamic duo could challenge Lochte’s world record of 1:54.00, but neither has looked at their best this week. Phelps does have some hope though; Lochte will just have about 20 minutes after his 200 back final, and Phelps has the ability to take advantage. Meanwhile, Cseh and Pereira battled it out in the second semi-final, but I’m not sure if the pair can get under the 1:56 barrier. Also watch for Britain’s James Goddard, who hung with Phelps and Lochte for the first 100 of their semi-final, and 200 IM bronze medalist Kosuke Hagino.
Favorite Ranomi Kromowidjojo cruised into the final of the women’s 100 free as the top seed. Her 53.05 leaves her more than three-tenths of a second ahead of the field, and she hasn’t even approached her world-leading 52.75 or relay split of 51.93 yet. She should win gold. Australia’s Melanie Schlanger swam well tonight as well, qualifying second in 53.38 as a precursor to her blazing 1:55.62 split in the 800 free relay. Missy Franklin, meanwhile, got into another Olympic final in third, although she will have to deal with another tough double tomorrow, as the 200 back semis precede this final. But hey, her last double worked out pretty well!
Rebecca Soni claimed that she just hoped to feel good in the women’s 200 breast semi-finals tonight. Uh huh. After making the world wait through three years of anticipation, Soni broke the world record, lowering Annamay Pierse’s 2:20.12 to 2:20.00. Obviously, she took the top seed. Sure, she probably would love to break 2:20 tomorrow, but if she swims the race the way she has all summer and not overswim the first lap or two, she will win gold. Rikke Pederson looks like the best of the rest, qualifying second in 2:22.40, and watch out for Yuliya Efimova from lane three, as well as World Champs bronze medalist Martha McCabe from out in lane one.
Just eight more preliminary events remain on the schedule in London, four of which kick off tomorrow morning. Despite a sixth-place finish in the 100 free, Cesar Cielo remains the favorite to defend his gold in the 50 free, while World Champion Missy Franklin enters as the front-runner in the women’s 200 back. Watch out, though, for Aussie Belinda Hocking, who swam a lifetime best earlier in the week in the 100 back and took silver behind Franklin at Worlds last year.
Michael Phelps begins the last individual event of his career in the 100 fly, where he could face a rematch with Serbian Milorad Cavic, who at both the 2008 Olympics and 2009 Worlds suffered the wrath of the Phelps Phinish. Finally, Rebecca Adlington enters the women’s 800 free as probably the last chance for the host Brits to earn gold in the pool. Lotte Friis, though, pushed Adlington the whole way at Worlds last year before Adlington pulled out the gold, and watch out too for rapidly-improving American youngster Katie Ledecky.