Posted: Aug 2, 2012 11:07 PM by NBC Olympics (ATM)
Updated: Aug 2, 2012 11:32 PM
LONDON - The U.S. swimming team has won 23 medals through five days of competition at the Olympics, which breaks down to 11 gold, seven silver and five bronze. Five of those 23 shiny pieces of metal were awarded Thursday night.
It was the biggest night for the Americans thus far, as three gold medals - one silver and one bronze - were draped around their necks. Four finals were contested but the U.S. only placed in three of them.
It began with Rebecca Soni's world-record swim in the 200m breaststroke (the second time in 24 hours she broke the mark), continued with Tyler Clary's thrilling (and some might say surprising) victory over Ryan Lochte (third) in the 200m backstroke, and ended with Michael Phelps' record-breaking win in the 200m IM.
Here are a few takeaways from each of these three races:
Women's 200m breaststroke
Soni had been tagged as being the one to break this world record since high-tech swimsuits were banned at the start of 2010. She came close to it the last two summers but fell short. Until Wednesday night's semifinal, that is, when she finished in 2:20.00 to reset the low number.
But Soni wasn't entirely satisfied because she wanted to be in the 2:19 range. "Hopefully I can go a little faster [for the final]," she said. Just under 24 hours after saying that, she hit her goal and stopped the clock in 2:19.59. The crowd knew she was right on pace to break the mark and it was obvious she heard the roars - in the last seven meters her pace quickened dramatically and she flew to the wall.
Remarkably, Soni's opening pace Thursday night was actually slower than what it was during the semifinals. But then she swam the third 50 .16 of a second faster and closed by cutting .47 of a second. Talk about finishing strong.
Men's 200m backstroke
This was billed as Ryan Lochte's race to lose, having won it at the 2008 Olympics and the 2011 World Championships. The question was where would his teammate Clary finish?
Turns out, Clary won gold in an Olympic record time of 1:53.41. Ryosuke Irie was second and Lochte rounded out the top three. He would not defend his Olympic title. For Clary, it was the swim of his life. His first Olympic medal at the first Olympics of his career.
"The fact that was able to get my hand on the wall first this time is an unreal feeling," Clary said. "I'm so happy right now. I'm just using it as a stepping stone for Rio now. I'm on cloud nine. I want more of this."
Men's 200m IM
This was the showdown, the thriller in east London, that everyone was waiting for. Phelps was shooting for history as the first male swimmer to win the same event at three Olympics. Lochte was the two-time defending world champion who owned the world record.
It is the greatest rivalry in swimming and it was the last time the two would race before Phelps retires Saturday night when this meet is over. Perhaps taking advantage of Lochte's fatigue from swimming the 200m backstroke 30 minutes prior, Phelps went out in the lead and kept it, beating Lochte at the final wall 1:54.27 to 1:54.90. Short of Lochte's world record but a dominating victory.
Lochte is done swimming in London. Phelps has two races left.
"I wanted to get all golds in my events, but it didn't happen," said Lochte, who finished his six races with five medals - two gold, two silver and one bronze. "I'm gonna have to live with that and move on. And learn from it."
This was Phelps' first individual title in London. "Obviously it's a relief to win an individual gold," he said. "I think it's something pretty cool and pretty special to three-peat I fell short in the first couple events."
As for the medal count, China and Japan are a distant second with nine. Australia follows with eight and France has six.
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