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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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Water polo (M) day 1 - Serbia breaks Hungarian streak of 18 Olympic victories

London 2012 Water Polo


Hungary's hoped of winning a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal were dealt a blow when they lost to European Champions Serbia in the opening round of men's water polo competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games Water Polo Arena. Olympic champions Hungary suffered their first defeat in 18 Olympic matches by losing to Serbia, 14-10. It was at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games that Hungary was last defeated in an Olympic match, falling to Yugoslavia in the preliminary rounds.  

The Serbian players stamped their authority on today's game, putting Hungary and the world on notice of their intentions to compete for the Olympic gold medal. Playing with passion and purpose the Serbs turned a 2-2 opening quarter into a 5-3 half time lead. Daniel Varga (HUN) evened the score at 3-3 at two minutes into the second period but it would be 11 minutes before Hungary would score its next goal. As in the earlier stages, the third quarter pace was fast and the match was physical as 9 goals were scored, Serbia holding an 11-6 advantage. Serbian centre forward Dusko Pijetlovic was unstoppable, twice evading the Hungarian defenders with speeding bullets from inside two metres. Hungary managed 4 goals in the final quarter, but fell to Serbia in a final score 10-14. Serbian goalkeeper Slobodan Soro made 13 saves. Filip Filipovic said of the Hungarian team, "they are triple Olympic champions, so we were expecting more pressure from their side. We were expecting a tougher offence and defence." 

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Swimming day 2 - Two new WR; France takes revenge

London 2012 Swimming

altTwo new World Records and two gold medals for France were the highlights of the second day of competition at these Olympic Games in London. Dana Vollmer (USA) and Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) were the new fastest in the pool in their respective events, while Camille Muffat (FRA) brilliantly won the women's 400m free, being followed some minutes later by her compatriots in the men's 4x100m free relay. Phelps, member of the silver team of USA got his 17th Olympic medal, while Rebecca Adlington (GBR), the local hero and defending champion, had to content herself with the bronze in the 400m free. 

The first strong moment of the evening session happened in the women's 100m butterfly, where US Dana Vollmer clocked a new World Record in 55.98. Having established a new Olympic record of 56.25 during the heats and being also the fastest of the semis, Vollmer was the athlete to beat in the decisive race. She did not disappoint and improved the world best mark set at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome (ITA) when Sarah Sjoestroem had swum to victory in 56.06. It is the second gold medal for Vollmer at Olympic level, after her 800m free triumph at the 2004 Games in Athens (GRE). Additionally, the 24-year-old had been world champion at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai (CHN), winning last July in 56.87.

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Diving day 1 - Wu enters in Olympic history

London 2012 Diving

altMinxia Wu and Zi He from China were the first Olympic champions in 2012 after winning the final of the women's 3m springboard in the Aquatics Centre. Leading from the very first dive until the end of the competition, the Chinese pair concluded with a total 346.20 points, much ahead of silver medallists Abigail Johnston and Kelci Bryant (USA, 321.90) and third-place finisher Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel (CAN, 316.80). This success represents the fifth Olympic medal for Wu, who won this event also in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 at the time together with diving legend Jingjing Guo. Moreover, Wu has two other Olympic individual awards: the silver in the 3m springboard in the Hellenic capital and the bronze in the same event at the "Water Cube". She is now the second best female diver in Olympic history, only behind Guo (four gold and two silver). Besides, she is the only female diver obtaining three consecutive Olympic crowns – a feat only obtained in the men's field by Klaus Dibiasi (ITA) in the 10m platform (in 1968, 1972 and 1976).

Very concentrated and regular throughout the five-dive final, Wu had already been successful with He in the final of the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai (CHN). At FINA's major competitions and since 2001 in Fukuoka, she has accumulated 12 medals. For Zi He, this was her first Olympic success.

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Swimming day 1 - China shines, Phelps misses podium

London 2012 Swimming

In the much awaited duel on the first day of the Swimming competition of the 2012 Olympic Games, in the men’s 400m individual medley, Ryan Lochte (USA) clocked his best personal time to get the first gold in London and, perhaps, more importantly, to give a strong sign to Michael Phelps that things won’t be easy for the best swimmer in history during these Games. Touching home in 4:05.18, Lochte was never in difficulty during the entire race and comfortably confirmed his 2011 world title, obtained in Shanghai (CHN). The podium was completed by Brazil’s Thiago Pereira (silver, 4:08.86), who obtained his first Olympic medal, and by Japan’s Kosuke Hagino (JPN, 4:08.94), who is also a neophyte at this level. Michael Phelps, 14 gold and two bronze medals in his roll of honour, finished fourth (4:09.28), after winning the gold both in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.

This history of this race in London was rich. In the heats, Phelps did not managed so well his pace (he passed at the 100m mark under the WR pace, and then faded towards the end of his effort) and finished only eighth on a time of 4:13.33. The ninth ranked swimmer was Laszlo Cseh, from Hungary, the silver medallist in Beijing and recent European champion, who clocked 4:13.40. That was the first surprise of the morning. In the evening, despite swimming in lane 8, Phelps was expected to do better, having a best 2012 performance of 4:07.89. Still within the podium range at the 200m mark, his breaststroke leg was slow and he lost the opportunity of collecting his 17th Olympic award.

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Opening Ceremony highlights spirit of unity at the Games

London 2012 Highlights

From the bucolic green fields until the creation of the world wide web, the history of Great Britain is rich in great events and discoveries that changed the world. The most notable one being the Industrial Revolution, this was the first theme of the spectacular Opening Ceremony of the Games of the 30th Olympiad held on July 27, 2012 in London. Under the title "Isles of Wonder", the action started on the countryside, with a fabulous stage simulating the old and calm lifestyle in the British landscapes. 

It quickly evolved to the challenging but thrilling times of the Industrial Revolution, a landmark in the history of mankind and the genesis of the development model followed by the entire planet. In a show proposed by famous artistic director Danny Boyle, the programme of the Ceremony was quite attractive: "You'll hear the words of our great poets – Shakespeare, Blake and Milton. You'll hear the glorious noise of our unrivalled pop culture. You'll see characters from our great children's literature – Peter Pan and Captain Cook, Mary Poppins, Voldemort, Cruella de Vil. You'll see ordinary families and extraordinary athletes. Dancing nurses, singing children and amazing special effects," said the informative brochure distributed to the 80,000 spectators that filled the stadium.

All this and much more was part of a very complete spectacle, highlighted by the parade of the 205 National Olympic Committees participating in these Games, headed by Greece (the country at the origin of the Olympic Games) and concluded by the enthusiastically-applauded British competitors. Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Games, while the IOC President Jacques Rogge left once more an educational message to all athletes present in the stadium: "I congratulate all of the athletes who have earned a place at these Games. And to the athletes, I offer this thought: your talent, your dedication and commitment brought you here. Now you have a chance to become true Olympians. That honour is determined not by whether you win, but by how you compete. Character counts far more than medals. Reject doping. Respect your opponents. Remember that you are all role models. If you do that, you will inspire a generation."

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