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Swimming day 6 – Phelps at his best continues to amaze the world!

London 2012 Swimming

If more records were needed to confirm the title of "Best Olympian in the history of the Games", Michael Phelps (USA) established one more on day 6 of the Swimming finals at the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 London Olympic Games. In the much expected men's 200m IM final, Phelps would attempt to become the first male swimmer to successfully defend his title at three consecutive Olympics in the same individual event. After his successes in 2004 and 2008, he triumphed once more, winning in 1:54.27. This is Phelps' 20th Olympic medal (including 16 golds)! Only two other swimmers have managed to win three individual titles in a row at Olympic level: Australia's Dawn Fraser - who was in the Aquatics Centre to cheer on Phelps' feat - in the women's 100m free between 1956 and 1964, and Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN), in the women's 200m backstroke, in 1988, 1992 and 1996. Phelps dominated the entire race and looked in a fresher condition than teammate Ryan Lochte, who had swum the 200m backstroke earlier in the evening. As it happens, Phelps became the first male swimmer of the 2012 Olympics to retain his 2008 title in an individual event.

On his rivalry with Lochte, Phelps admitted: "Ryan and I have had a lot of good races. Over the last four years, Ryan has made a lot of improvement, in and out of the pool. For me, it's going to be fun to be able to watch what these guys do over the next four years, where they continue to take the sport. We have had a fun career with one another, we do push each other. He has brought the best out of me many times." Commenting on his result, the greatest Olympian in history said: "Obviously it's a relief to win an individual gold, it's something pretty special. To be able to have the heat that we had all three of us, we shared the podium together and raced each other so many times that it is just cool to finish my career winning the 200 IM gold medal." Asked about his feelings on swimming his last competitive swim in London (Phelps will retire after these Games), he added: "Once it's over, it is really going to hit me emotionally, it is really emotional for my mother, she's watched my sisters go to the sport and retire, and she's going to watch me retire too. But after Sunday, there will be no more competitive swimming, I will be retired."

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Water polo (W) day 2 - Hungary upset world number 2 China

London 2012 Water Polo

altHungary came out on top of today's Group A match defeating the #2 world ranked team China in the second day of women's competition at the Water Polo Arena on Wednesday, August 1st. The world #9 ranked Hungarians were unphased by a 3-1 deficit at the end of the first quarter and at being behind 7-5 at half time. Three goals by Gabriella Szucs in the third period brought Hungary to within one goal at 10-9. Dora Czigany (HUN) levelled the game in an extra-man attack early in the fourth quarter.

Five minutes later, former German player Barbara Bujka gave the huge Hungarian supporter base what they wanted with a sweeping flick over her head from the centre-forward position for the first Hungarian lead of the game with just 1:56 minutes remaining on the clock. China had chances to draw but even after a timeout at 12 seconds left in the game, the Chinese players could not penetrate the strong Hungarian defence.

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Swimming day 5 – Gyurta and Soni set new WR in 200m breast

London 2012 Swimming

Two new World Records highlighted day 5 at the Aquatics Centre in London. The new global marks were established in the same event (200m breaststroke): in the men's final by Daniel Gyurta (HUN) and the women's semi finals by Rebecca Soni (USA). This brings the total of WR set in London to five. The evening was also marked by a thrilling race in the men's 100m free and by the unsuccessful attempt of Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) to obtain a third consecutive title in the men's 200m breaststroke. If needed, this session also proved that the "changing of the guard" is a reality in London and that to re-validate an Olympic title is a real challenge for the swimming stars so far. Last but not least, Spain obtained their second-ever medal for a female swimmer while the Games host enjoyed the second podium presence for a swimmer.

Considered by many the main event of the Swimming programme, the men's 100m free featured a superb race at the London Aquatics Centre. James Magnussen from Australia, the 2011 world champion in Shanghai, fastest performer in 2012 (47.10) and the first in the semis (47.63), was the man to beat and constituted a solid hope for an Australian gold. But many big names of freestyle swimming were in the final's line-up: on lane 2, world record holder Cesar Cielo from Brazil; on lane 1, the youngest of the field Yannick Agnel (FRA, and already three medals in London); on lane 5, Nathan Adrian, winner at the US Trials; and on lane 7, Canada's Brent Hayden, world champion in 2007 and silver medallist at Shanghai Worlds.

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Diving day 4 - China completes clean sweep in synchro events

London 2012 Diving

altIn the short history of the men's 3m springboard synchro at the Olympic Games (since 2000) and at the FINA World Championships (since 1998), China only lost the gold medal on two occasions: in 2004, at the Athens Games, when a succession of mistakes from both China and Russia allowed the incredible victory of the Greek pair, and in 2003, at the Barcelona Worlds, where a stronger Russian duet managed to challenge the Chinese supremacy. These two exceptions will remain exceptions: in the fourth day of the diving programme at the 2012 Olympics, Kai Qin and Yutong Luo easily got the fourth gold medal for China in this discipline, winning the final in 477.00. That was 17 points more than the silver medallists, the team of Russia, composed by Ilya Zakharov/Evgeny Kuznetsov (459.63) and more than 30 points over third placed team US Kristian Ipsen/Troy Dumais (446.70).

Qin, 26 years old, is one of the most experienced members of the Chinese squad, having already in his roll of honour two gold medals from Beijing 2008 (individual and synchro 3m springboard) and five awards at the FINA World Championships, since 2007. For Luo, this was his first Olympic success, after three podium presences at world level, one of which being the 2011 title in the same event with Qin. 

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Water polo (M) day 2 - Nine-time Olympic champions lose second game in a row

London 2012 Water Polo

Hungary, a 9 time Olympic champion in men's water polo was beaten for the second time this week at the Olympic water polo competition. In today's Group B match Montenegro came out on top 11-10. On Sunday, the team from Serbia upset Hungary by an even wider margin, 14-10. The Hungarian team owns three consecutive gold medals from Olympic composition starting with the Sydney Games in 2000. The last time the Hungarians lost two consecutive games was in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when they were on the losing end of a semi-final and bronze medal encounters. It is not often that head coach Denes Kemeny (HUN) throws his hands over his face, but as the final seconds of the game ticked away, his dream of a fourth Olympic title in London may have been in doubt.

On the brighter side, Hungary scored 20 goals in their two losses, itself an amazing statistic in international water polo. The team from Montenegro was never behind and broke free of Hungary midway through the second quarter and able to post a 6-5 lead at halftime. Early in the third quarter the margin grew to three goals, but twice the Hungarians struck back to bring the difference to only one, 9-8 at the end of the third period. Goals were traded in the final quarter but Denes Varga's (HUN) last three shots were all thwarted by goalkeeper Milos Scepanovic (MNE). Montenegro was able to maintain its one goal advantage, finishing 11-10. Looking back, Hungary's ability to score on extra-man opportunities could have been the team's salvation especially inside the final minute of the game. The Hungarian team finished with an impressive seven goals from 10 attempts throughout the game. Montenegro scored only four times from 10 extra-man attempts, but their action shots helped them win the game. Montenegro has now beaten Hungary a total of four times in 2012, most noteworthy was their extra time win in the European Championships semi-final game.

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Swimming day 4 – It's now official: Michael Phelps is the best ever in Olympic history!

London 2012 Swimming

altThroughout his awe-inspiring Olympic venture, Michael Phelps (USA) has accumulated two incredible records: the most gold medals (14) and the most gold medals in a single edition of the Games (8). One last record was missing for him to climb the highest march of the Olympic Pantheon: the biggest tally of Olympic medals. Coming to London, Phelps had 16 medals (14 gold and two bronze), quite close to Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's medal tally. Between 1956 and 1964, she had accumulated 18 medals, a record tally considered unbeatable for many decades, until the appearance on the international swimming stage of a phenomenon named Michael Phelps.

In the fourth session of the Swimming programme at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the US swimmer from Baltimore added two more awards (silver in the 200m butterfly and gold in the 4x200m free relay) to his unmatched roll of honour, collecting his 18th and 19th medals (adding to that his silver in the 4x100m free relay). He is now, considering any parameter of analysis, the best athlete ever in Olympic history, with a total 15 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals!

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Diving day 3 - Chen (CHN) brilliantly revalidates title in 10m synchro

London 2012 Diving

altLike in the men's event, Mexico managed to be the best representative of the "rest of the world" against China in the women's 10m platform synchro, the third event of the Olympic diving programme of London 2012. Ruolin Chen and Hao Wang were naturally the athletes to beat, but as in so many occasions no one managed to beat them. Always very consistent from the first dive, this was an opportunity for Chen to revalidate the 2008 Olympic crown, this time with a different partner (at the "Water Cube", she got the gold with Xin Wang). This combination is not new and has been successful also at world level – in 2011, at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai (CHN), Wang and Chen also obtained a comfortable victory. It was the third gold medal out of three diving events at these Olympics for China.

"Four years ago, I was younger and with less experience. I was a bit nervous. Today, I feel more mature and more relaxed," declared Chen, who had also won the individual 10m event in Beijing. "Diving brings me something different. It brings something that most people cannot get," added Chen, visibly happy with this outcome.



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Water polo (W) day 1 - Spain upset world 2011 silver medallist China

London 2012 Water Polo

Olympic qualification tournament winner Spain upset world number 2 China by a surprising 11-6 margin in the opening Group A preliminary match of the women's competition at the Water Polo Arena on Monday. It was only two minutes into the second quarter when Spain took control and started to swim away from the Chinese. China earned a silver medal at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. That margin went to 4-2 before China struck back to even the score at 4-4. From that point on the Spanish armada took over, going ahead 6-4 at half time and then 10-6 at the final break.

The stunned Chinese, who were late leaving the pool deck after the match were kept scoreless. The Spanish team, less experienced and slightly younger pressed home their advantage with Anni Espar (ESP) attaining her hat-trick of goals in the only score of the fourth quarter.

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Swimming day 3 - Agnel grabs third gold for France and Meilutyte first medal ever for Lithuania

London 2012 Swimming

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Another memorable session was lived at the Aquatics Centre on the third day of the Swimming programme. France got their third gold, Missy Franklin and Matt Grevers offered USA two more titles while the biggest revelation of the Games, Lithuania's Ruta Meilutyte, was the strongest in the women's 100m breaststroke. The surprise of the day was Ryan Lochte's (USA) fourth place in the men's 200m free.

Over the years, this has become one of the most interesting events of the Swimming programme. The old rivalry between Pieter van den Hoogenband and Ian Thorpe, then Phelps and Biedermann has created a solid expectation surrounding this race at every major international rendezvous. The Games in London were no exception. Displaying a very strong field (only Phelps was missing), the athletes to watch were naturally Lochte, Tae-Hwan Park (KOR), Sun Yang (CHN), Yannick Agnel (FRA) and Paul Biedermann (GER). The fastest of the semis had been Sun, world record holder in the 1500m free and winner of the 400m free in London. The Chinese star had, however, a bad start and was only sixth at the 50m mark, while Agnel departed fast from the blocks and managed to control his lead during the entire race. In the end, the successful member of the French quartet that had already grabbed gold in the 4x100m free relay on day 2, touched home in 1:43.14, much faster than Park and Sun, who shared the silver (and make their second podium appearance here in London) in 1:44.93. It was the first victory ever for France in this event in Olympic history and the third title for the country so far at the Aquatics Centre (besides Agnel's 200m free triumph and the above-mentioned relay, Camille Muffat won the 400m free). 

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Diving day 2 - China clinches 10m synchro title, Daley and Waterfield disappoint fans

London 2012 Diving

With just one silver (in cycling) and one bronze (in swimming, thanks to Rebecca Adlington) at the end of the first two days of their Games, the whole country was relying on the likes of Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield to perhaps get the first gold in London. Long before the start of the diving men's 10m platform synchronised event, thousands of spectators headed to the Aquatics Centre hoping for a home triumph in one of the most challenging but also most interesting event of the diving Olympic programme. Enthusiastically cheering the British pair at each of their six dives, the public was not enough to even secure a medal for the British duet, who finished fourth. The victory went to China's Yuan Cao and Yanquan Zhang (first Olympic participation), who totalled 486.78, ahead of Mexico's German Sanchez and Ivan Garcia (silver, with 468.90 points) and USA Nicholas McCrory/David Boudia (bronze, with 463.47).

Until the end of round 2 (out of 6), with dives limited to a 2.0 DD no team had made any major mistake. On the subsequent attempt, Daley and Waterfield, who were already in the lead, performed a flawless back 3 ½ somersault (tuck) and consolidated their advance over the Chinese pair. The turning point of the competition happened in the fourth round, when Daley lacked some rotation and spoiled a reverse 3 ½ somersault (tuck) and received a poor 71.28 from the judges. The British duet paid a very high price for this error and went immediately back to fourth position. Until the end, the fate of Daley and Waterfield did not change, provoking some frustration on the thousands of fans that were at the Aquatics Centre to support them.

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