And they all float on…
Because it would not really be the Olympics without amped-up intra-team rivalries and sheisty badminton players, the night’s other nailbiter came from the natatorium. Beijing Golden Boy Michael Phelps got off to a slow start this Games — so slow, in fact, that he didn’t even medal in his first event, the 400 IM. Ryan Lochte did, though: Gold #jeah. While the boys towed the “Rah-rah, USA!” line during their two relays together (one of which gave Phelps yet another passage in the history books), I think it’s safe to say that both swimmers were out for blood at the 200m IM final. Not only was it Lochte’s last swim of the Games, it was also personal: Lochte had also bested Phelps in the semifinals. But, like Olympic Hottie James “The Missile” Magnussen, Phelps is a finisher. (Just ask Milorad Čavić.) So who would come out on top in the Americans’ second showdown in London?
Phelps naturally took the lead on the butterfly leg, though just slightly. He kept it up, outpacing Lochte’s world record during the backstroke. After the breaststroke, he was still leading, but would Lochte be able to make up the gap in the freestyle anchor leg? Nope! Phelps took home gold — the 16th of his career — with Lochte 0.63 seconds behind. If Lochte is in need of consolation, he can at least hold close to the fact that this particular swim didn’t better his current world record. (Who did Phelps swim better than? Everyone else this year in the 100m butterfly semifinals later last night.)
Also on the consolation front, it could be argued that Lochte’s silver in the 200m IM resulted from fatigue. Just 30 minutes before, Lochte had taken bronze in the 200m backstroke behind USA’s Tyler Clary and Japan’s Ryosuke Irie. (Worth noting: Back-to-back events didn’t stop Olympic Stud Missy Franklin from killing it on Monday.) Lochte’s loss in that race was an upset, but it was showcase for the undeniable awesomeness of Tyler Clary, who set a new Olympic record. When pushed by the insatiable Andrea Kremer to describe his feelings after winning gold, Clary said with an awkward laugh, “There’s no way to sum it up that broadcasters would be okay with.” Love. It. Love. Him.
The pool wasn’t all about the boys, though. Rebecca Soni echoed the U.S. gymnasts fashion in rocking hot pink as she vied to make history as the first woman to win back-to-back golds in the 200m breaststroke. As Rowdy Gaines and Dan Patrick noted, London has thus far been brutal for defending champs. Phelps, Australia’s Stephanie Rice, and many others have fallen in the last five days. Not so for Soni. She destroyed her nearest competitor, Japan’s Satomi Suzuki, by nearly a full body length — and broke her own world record (her second in these Games) in the process. Boyfriend, and fellow Olympian, Ricky Berens cheered jubilantly from the stands.
The finals weren’t the only sources of excitement. Early in the night, there was a rare semifinal tie for first in the men’s 50m freestyle, a.k.a. The Fastest Flipper in the World. No, it did not involve Anthony Ervin, who tied Gary Hall Jr. for a gold in this event in Sydney and has recently returned to the sport after an eight-year sabbatical of self-discovery. Instead, Cullen Jones (member of the gold medal-winning 2008 4x100m freestyle relay team with Michael Phelps) and self-flagellating Brazilian Cesar Cielo tapped in together. Ervin did manage to finish third overall, touching the wall a mere 0.12 seconds later. My colleague Sandra Gonzalez will document the final results later tonight.
In another kudo for the Red, White, and Blue, Elizabeth Beisel cleared her path to a medal in the women’s 200m backstroke semifinal. Her main competition? Reigning world champion-slash-Justin Bieber superfan Missy Franklin. I would argue that you shouldn’t discount Zimbabwe’s world-record holder and two-time gold medalist Kirsty Coventry, but Dan and Rowdy seem to disagree. That final concludes today as well.
What? Did you think Phelps was done?
In other news…
I wouldn’t recommend getting stuck in a dark alley with the American men’s volleyball team. Captain Clay Stanley literally knocked a Brazillian team member off his feet with one serve. (Cheers to the spectator with a “STANLEY IS MANLY!” sign.) Despite Brazil coming out on top in “one of the ugliest points” the commentators had ever seen, the defending champions from America served an impressive eight aces and knocked Brazil — Beijing’s silver medalists — down a peg. Bump, set, spike! In related news, this girl has a new Olympic crush. Hey there, Leandro Vissotto Neves, you tall drink of water, you. (Don’t worry, Nathan Adrian, I still love you, too!)
Team USA rowing continued its six-year streak of world domination in the Women’s Eight, easily defeating Canada. My team MVP goes to pocket-sized coxswain Mary Whipple, not only for her name, which sounds like it belongs on the side of a Rupert Grint-driven ice cream truck, but also for her unabashed happy-crying at kicking the other teams’ butts. Who doesn’t love a tiny dynamo?