Swimming day 2 - Two new WR; France takes revenge
Two 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.
Diving day 1 - Wu enters in Olympic history
Minxia 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.
Swimming day 1 - China shines, Phelps misses podium
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.
Opening Ceremony highlights spirit of unity at the Games
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."
Exciting atmosphere in the Aquatic venues
With two days to go for the start of the FINA competitions, the atmosphere is already intense in the Aquatic venues. Swimmers, divers, synchronised swimmers and water polo players are already practising for some days in the state-of-the-art facilities, trying to put in place their last winning strategies for a successful participation in the 2012 Olympic Games.
"Winning" and "successful" have obviously different meanings for the myriad of athletes competing in London. Strong teams are obviously looking for podium presences, while competitors from developing countries will certainly do their best to raise the aquatic image of their respective nation and to emulate the youth in their territory to the practice of swimming.
In the first group of traditionally-strong nations, the team of Great Britain has naturally great expectations with their home Games. On the Press Conference to present the goals of the squad, Michael Scott, the British National Performance Director, was clear: "We've strived to continue momentum. The upward curve has continued through Rome (2009 FINA World Championships), Delhi (2010 Commonwealth Games) and Shanghai (2011 FINA World Championships). We've learnt from Shanghai, where we missed on four medals by a short margin." Four years ago, in Beijing, the British delegation had totalled six medals in Swimming (three in the pool and three in the marathon swimming events).
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