After his fourth consecutive Olympic title in the men’s 4x200m free, Michael Phelps (USA) continues to accumulate records. Tonight, in the sixth session of finals at the Rio 2016 Games, the best athlete in history, managed the same feat in the 200m IM: after the gold in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, the 31-year-old from Baltimore got his 26th medal and 22nd gold, touching home in 1:54.66. All the adjectives have been used to describe this enormous legend in Swimming, but for this particular race will stay in everyone’s mind the last 50m, a freestyle leg that definitively decided the outcome of the race in his favour. Phelps was also world champion in this event at the 2003, 2005 and 2007 FINA World Championships. Moreover, this is his fourth gold in these Games, after the titles in the 200m butterfly, 4x100m free and 4x200m free.
His greatest rival in recent years, teammate Ryan Lochte (world gold medallist in the last four editions of FINA’s major showcase) had the second time of the semis, but in the decisive race had to content with the fifth place, in a modest time of 1:57.47 (Lochte is the world record holder, in 1:54.00, from 2011). The minor medals went then to Kosuke Hagino (JPN, silver, 1:56.61) and to Wang Shun (CHN, bronze, 1:57.05).
In the women’s 100m free, the surprise came from 20-year-old Simone Manuel (USA) and 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak (CAN), who shared the gold in a new Olympic record of 52.70. They slightly improved the previous mark established by Cate Campbell in the semis of the event, when she clocked 52.71. The Australian (2013 world champion and current world record holder in 52.06) did not medal in Rio, finishing the decisive race in sixth (53.24). Her sister Bronte (gold medallist in Kazan 2015) also missed the podium, concluding in fourth (53.04). The bronze went to Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), in 52.99. Curiously, 32 years ago, at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, two US swimmers had also shared the gold in this event – Carrie Steinseifer and Nancy Hogshead had then clocked 55.92! Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED), the 2012 Olympic champion, had a disappointing performance in Rio, finishing in fifth, in a time of 53.08.
The session had started with the women’s 200m breaststroke, where a convincing Rie Kaneto, from Japan, got the gold in 2:20.30. The Asian swimmer had already the best time of 2016 in 2:19.65. Yulia Efimova (RUS), silver medallist of the 100m in Rio, got another medal of the same colour, touching in 2:21.97. The Russian swimmer was the2013 world champion and third in the Olympic final in London 2012. The bronze in Rio went to Shi Jinglin (CHN), also third at the 2015 Worlds and fourth in the previous edition of the Games. Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN), the world record holder in 2:19.11, and medallist in the last two World Championships, finished eighth in 2:23.74.
Among men, the first winner of the night was Ryan Murphy (USA, already 2016 Olympic 100m gold medallist) in the 200m backstroke. Swimming in lane 6, next to 2015 world champion Mitch Larkin (AUS), the North American controlled operations and touched for gold in 1:53.62, leaving the Australian with the silver in 1:53.96. Evgeny Rylov completed the podium, earning bronze in 1:53.97. The Russian had been also third at the 2015 Worlds in Kazan, while Larkin was the last of the final four years ago in London. The deception of the night must have been felt by Japan’s Ryosuke Irie, runner-up in 2012, and bronze medallist at the 2009 and 2011 Worlds – he finished this time in eighth, in a time of 1:56.36.
In semi-final action, the reigning Olympic and world champion in the men’s 50m free, Florent Manaudou (FRA), was the fastest qualifier for the decisive race in 21.32, quite close from the Olympic record established by Brazil’s Cesar Cielo (not qualified for these Games) in Beijing 2008, in a time of 21.30. Nathan Adrian, the second in Kazan 2015 is the fourth so far (21.47), while the 2013 vice-champion Vladimir Morozov (RUS) will not swim the final, after being only 10th (21.88). In the women’s 200m backstroke, Katinka Hosszu (HUN) was the strongest of the field in 2:06.03, while 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Kirsty Coventry (ZIM, sixth) will swim another Olympic final at almost 33. The shock of the night was the non-qualification of the 2012 Olympic champion and world record holder, US Missy Franklin, who finished in an unusual 14th place (2:09.74). Finally, in the men’s 100m fly, Phelps made the necessary effort to qualify for the final, clocking the fifth time of the semis, in 51.58. Singapore’s Joseph Schooling is the fastest so far, in 50.83. If Phelps wins the 100m fly in Rio, it will also be his fourth consecutive victory at the Olympics in this event.
Women's 200m BREAST
Rie Kaneto (JPN), gold:
“Before the medal ceremony i saw my coach briefly and he asked me how it went. I said “pretty well” but I am not quite sure. He said that we would talk about it later and we took a photo together.”
“I knew that my legs weren’t where they should have been. I think if I worked my legs better, my results could have been different.”
“Initially I wasn’t even planning to attend. I changed my mind last minute and I realized that I could improve my time. Despite all the strong competitors being there, I won.”
Yulia Efimova (RUS), silver:
"It was a great race. It was really crazy because all the girls were really strong and it all seemed fast and the time was super-close. I'm just so tired."
"This is meaningful. Like in all sports, we wanted to win a gold medal but this is my third Olympics. In the first one, I was fourth, in the second I was third. Now I am second, so maybe the next one is mine."
Shi Jinglin (CHN), bronze:
"Even if this is just third place, I'm proud of myself. This is my first Olympics so it was a big challenge."
Men's 200m BACK
Ryann Murphy (USA), gold:
"That one was very painful but I wanted that one really bad. The 100m backstroke is actually the one that comes more naturally for me so that's the one I was really gunning for."
"The night isn't over so hopefully I will make a couple more memories. I'm going to try to be a little more attentive now that I'm done with my individual races."
"My friends and family have made so many sacrifices for me. They are my biggest supporters. My whole family is here. My sister, brother and both my parents. That support system has been huge and I think it has propelled me to this point."
“I haven’t really thought about what my role will be moving forward. However I know what guys like Phelps and Lochte have done for us. How they have inspired us so hopefully I can inspire little kids too. I think it’s going to be a group of us leading by example, not just one person.”
“The next Olympics are way too far to think about my objectives but I will certainly sit down with my coach a map out what's next.”
Mitchell Larkin (AUS), silver:
"Going into it I just wanted to stand on the podium. Ryan came over the top of me unfortunately. I was trying to keep my head cool and not feel the pressure and keep the tension out of my stroke."
"It's like there's two football stadiums here cheering for you."
“I caught myself thinking WOW this is the Olympics but I really tried to swim as if this was a normal event. This week was about racing and handling my expectations.”
“It is such a mixed of emotion but we are a great supportive team. There has been cries this week but we stand for each other. I will not be celebrating tonight too much cause I have the relay tomorrow.”
Evgeny Rylove (RUS), bronze:
"I have a positive feeling right now of course for getting the third place. But I'm a little bit disappointed that I missed the final touch. I was feeling like I was missing all of my turns."
“I am happy that I came third”
"I'm not against competing often, but my body doesn't adapt well to competitions. I can only compete once or twice seriously. If I overwhelm myself, then I can lose it and get sick."
"I think that the results are not very good, to be honest. A lot of things didn't happen the way we wanted them to. Some people couldn't adapt to the conditions here. I noticed that for some it was very hard to swim late at night. People were still not able to wake up. Even though we prepared, everything still depended on how our bodies felt, as well as our bad nerves.”
Men's 200m IM
Michael Phelps (USA), gold
"I say this a lot, but every single day I'm living a dream come true. As a kid I wanted to do something that no one had ever done before and I'm enjoying it. Being able to finish how I won is just something very special to me and this is why you are seeing more and more emotion on the medal podium."
"You know as a kid, it's not like pulling teeth to get me in the pool anymore. I want to finish my career how I want to so that's what I'm doing."
"Every single time I come out I try to look up and see Nicole, my mom, Boomer and the rest of my family. It brings tears to my eyes because I want to hold him and hang out with him more."
Kosuke Hagino (JPN), silver:
"I wanted to be able to compete more competitively with Ryan and Michael (USA) but my time is not so good. I am very tired."
"I am very happy because Thiago Pereira (BRA) is from Brazil and Ryan Lochte and Phelps are superstars to me, so I am very happy to compete with these guys."
“Of course I grew up watching Phelps on TV. I thought he is a great star, someone that I would aspire to. It was great swimming next to him tonight.”
“My ideal race would be something where I could be much more aggressive in the first laps but I could do it. But my career is still continues so I can plan many things in the future.”
“When it comes to pressure, I didn’t feel too much of it personally. I was full of joy to race these great athletes. Just wanted to do my very best.”
Wang Shun (CHN), bronze:
"It's so amazing. I lost at this event recently and I was very sad. This makes up for that, I am happy now. I have been working towards a medal with my coach. I had heard a lot about this crowd, and they were so loud.”
“Before the Games I tried to prepare myself the best I could and focus on every 50 meter and every execution. I didn’t think much, just be the best.”
Women's 100m FREE
Penny Oleksiak (CAN) and Simone Manuel (USA), gold:
Oleksiak: "This is amazing, to tie for a gold. I never thought I'd win a gold. Simone deserves it as much as me. It means so much."
“I didn’t know I had tied before I turned around and saw the OR too.”
“I knew the pressure was on to make history but obviously I was trying not to focus on this, to stay calm.”
"I am only 16 and it's pretty insane to tie with a girl like Simone at your first Olympics."
Manuel: "My first gold medal, at my first Olympics, is kind of a surprise to me. I never thought I would be in this position but I'm so blessed and honoured to be on the medal stand. All my hard work has paid off and I am really happy about it."
"I will just remember all the memories I made. Team USA is awesome. We're a family and it's a great support system. Regardless of our achievements, we're all there for each other and we are friends."
“There wasn’t a point that I realized I won. But when I turned around I saw the screen. I also saw that Penny had won. It was so great even thought I only met Penny today.”
“The whole time I was trying not to cry but I did a lot after when I heard the national anthem.”
“The medal means a lot to me. Today’s success is not only for me, but for all African-American women who have competed in the sport in the past. My colour just come with a territory. I want to win just as much as other swimmers.”