The sprinters kicked off the evening with the men’s 100m free. Five men broke the 48 second mark, all within two tenths of each other: Nathan Adrian led the pack, followed by Australian pair Kyle Chalmers and Cam McEvoy, then Canadian Santo Condorelli and finally Florida swimmer and Olympic rookie Caeleb Dressel. Dressel, who some feared was a “short course swimmer,” or that his skills made him poorly adapted for the Olympic size pool, has done quite well for himself. The swim in semis is .06 from his best to date, swum in the morning. Adrian enjoys a slight lead going into the final but it will be anyone’s race from the five of them.
They were followed by the queen herself, Katie Ledecky. Ledecky who full subject to Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom’s speed in the semis took the race out more aggressively this time. Out in 55.4, behind Australia’s Emily McKeon and right with Francesca Pelligrini, Ledecky moved away from the pack during the third 50 – but Sjostrom was following. They closed with the same exact split (58.30 vs 58.32), considerably faster than the field, and with 15m to go it looked like Sjostrom’s incredible closing speed was going to carry her right past Ledecky; and then it happened. Ledecky saw Sjostrom and her body position changed, she popped up in the water, her strokes took her further and she completely shifted gears. The ground Sjostrom had fought to make up was lost again and Ledecky closed into the wall nearly half a second ahead, sealing up the gold. Sjostrom took silver and McKeon grabbed bronze. If Ledecky wins the 800m free, which experts and bookies agree is almost definitely the case, she will be the first woman since 1968 to win 200, 400, and 800 (the first year women swam the 200 and 800 at the Olympics). Meyer, as a side note, uses the license plate 3Gold68, and was the Katie Ledecky of her day.
The men’s 200m fly which pitted some of the greatest swimmers of all time against each other was as exciting as it was billed to be. Lazslo Cseh took the race out fast, leading the pack and Michael Phelps at the 50m mark: but the Phelps was restless. Michael pushed the middle 100m hard, out-splitting the field, and putting himself in a comfortable 1-second lead with 50m to go. Fans know Tamas Kenderesi of Hungary can close a race fast, but not much attention had been given to 6th seeded Masato Sakai of Japan. While both Kenderesi and Sakai out-split Phelps, Sakai swam a blazing 29.67 to come within .04 of the winningest Olympian in history. But Phelps did what he does, despite sloppy turns and crunched strokes, and he clung on to win the gold by the most improbable of margins. Sakai took an impressive silver, Kenderesi the bronze and first of many Olympic medals likely in his career, and just out of medal contention was the impious and boisterous Chad Le Clos, the reigning Olympic Champion.
The women then retook the pool for the 20om butterfly semi-finals. Katinka Hosszu scratched this event to focus on the finals of her 200m IM later in the evening, opening the field slightly. Australia’s Maddy Groves took the top seed in an impressive 2:05.66, followed by Spain’s Mireia Belmonte. The Chinese federation, whose swimmer’s own the Olympic and World records, have two swimmers in the top 5 as well. The Americans, however, are sitting in the 7th and 8th spots – surviving but not primed to do much on the medal stand. This event is very competitive across the world, but both Americans swam considerably faster in the morning. If the can muster a best time, they’ll be in play for some new jewelry, but the likes of Yilin Zhou and Yufei Zhang of China, and Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi are hoping to spoil that.
The men’s 200m breaststroke saw an Olympic record fall in the first hear as Japan’s Ippei Watanabe bested the US’s Josh Prenot by nearly half a second. Yasuhiro Koseki of Japan also grabbed third and broke the 2:08 mark. In the second heat, it was Great Britain’s Andrew Willis who had the top time at 2:07.7, and the US’s Kevin Cordes also broke 2:08 (2:07.99) to take the second spot, and 5th seed overall going into the final. Cordes’s stroke looked long and powerful the entire way and, as a fan I hope, it looks like he controlled his finish and cruised in to conserve energy. Watanabe has a comfortable cushion over the field, but both Prenot and Cordes have famously good endurance in the 200m breaststroke and could possibly translate that into an Olympic gold.
The final individual event of the day was the women’s 200m IM, featuring Ms Iron herself, Katinka Hosszu. Katinka was out fast in the fly, and had established her lead after a very quick backstroke leg. Siobhan Marie-O’Connor of Great Britain was hanging tight, and actually summoned the speed to catch up to the super-human Hosszu during the last 50m freestyle, but her strong finish wasn’t enough to steal gold from iron. Hosszu set the Olympic record, though she fell just short of her own world record, and took her third individual gold of the meet. Marie-O’Connor was safely in second for silver, and about 2 seconds later America’s Maya Dirado touched the wall to secure a bronze and her second Olympic medal, half a stroke ahead of US-teammate Melanie Margalis. Dirado’s 2:08.79 cements her as the 2nd fastest American ever after Olympian Ariana Kukors in this event. Hosszu’s final event, the 200m backstroke,
Men’s 4×200 Relay – US won, yay, more details to follow I’m busy…
Tomorrow we’ll see the conclusion of the men’s 100m free, women’s 200m fly, and men’s 200m breaststroke and the women’s 4×200 free relay, as well as the semifinals for the men’s 200m back featuring Gold-medalist Ryan Murphy, the women’s 100m free with the dominant Australian Campbell sisters, the men’s 200m IM with old rivals Phelps and Lochte, and the women’s 200m breast with big-talker Lilly King.