Thursday, August 2, 2012

London 2012: Day Six Finals, Part Two

A world record went down in tonight’s finals, and a man finally achieved the three-peat. Check out my thoughts on those amazing races.

Ranomi Kromowidjojo entered the women’s 100 free as the big favorite, and she came through tonight. While she failed to match the fireworks of a 51.93 relay split, Kromowidjojo did enough to win, touching in 53.00 for a new Olympic record. Co-World Champion Aliaksandra Herasimenia gave Kromowidjojo a run on the first lap, but she had to settle for silver in a still-impressive 53.38. China’s Tang Yi, meanwhile, earned the bronze, while Missy Franklin took fifth in 53.64. While that missed her best time of 53.52 from the 400 free relay leadoff leg, that’s still a great swim coming after her 200 back semi-final.

The New World dominated the semi-finals in the men’s 50 free, as Cullen Jones tied defending champ Cesar Cielo for the win in semi-final one in 21.54. Cielo still holds the top time in the world at 21.38, but Jones improved on his Olympic Trials best time of 21.59 and just missed his American record of 21.41. Anthony Ervin qualified third in 21.62, and he will start from “lucky lane three” in the final. Why lucky? When Ervin tied Gary Hall Jr. for the gold medal in the 50 free in 2000, he swam in lane three. Watch out for Ervin; he’s dangerous.

Another Brazilian rounded out the top four with Bruno Fratus claiming lane six in a 21.63. Trinidad’s George Bovell, meanwhile, matched his prelims time to take fifth in 21.77, while Florent Manaudou, Eamon Sullivan, and Roland Schoeman rounded out a stacked final. Cielo remains the big favorites, but the Americans have put themselves in the best-possible position for the upset. Jones and Ervin both have looked great the past month, and both could have one more stellar swim to come.

Americans Elizabeth Beisel and Missy Franklin finished 1-2 in the semi-finals of the women’s 200 back with the only sub-2:07 swims. Beisel put up a fantastic swim and best time of 2:06.18 to take the top seed, while favorite Franklin grabbed the second spot. Belinda Hocking, one of only two women under 2:07 last year, did not get into the final, so the Americans enter as big favorites to finish 1-2. I’d pick Franklin for the win, though, and she could push Kirsty Coventry’s world record of 2:04.81. Meagan Nay and Anastasia Zueva swam under 2:08 to pick up the third and fourth seeds, respectively, while Kirsty Coventry has earned lane seven for the final in her shot to match Kristina Egerszegi with three straight golds in the event.

Tomorrow kicks off with the last session of swimming prelims at these Olympic Games. Kromowidjojo enters as the favorite to earn a second gold in the women’s 50 free, but World Champ Therese Alshammar hopes to bounce back from a pinched nerve and push her Dutch rival. Alshammar took silver in the event in 2000 to another Dutchwoman, the great Inge de Brujin. Meanwhile, Sun Yang leads the field into the men’s 1500 as the huge favorite, and he has his sights set on another world record, having put up his mark of 14:34.08 at Worlds last year. Defending champion Ous Mellouli, meanwhile, makes his London debut in that event, and watch out too for defending bronze medalist Ryan Cochrane and 200 and 400 free runner-up Park Tae Hwan.

The Olympics conclude with the women’s and men’s 400 medley relays. The Americans enter both as favorites, but second-string squads first have to qualify for the finals tomorrow. Rachel Bootsma, Breeja Larson, Claire Donahue, and Jessica Hardy swim for the women, while Nick Thoman, Eric Shanteau, Tyler McGill, and most likely Cullen Jones have the reins for the men. Expect the biggest challenges in both to come from Australia, but no other country enters with four great legs for either the men or women like the U.S. does.

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