U.S. women set world record, Phelps retires
LONDON – Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and Allison Schmitt won gold and set a world record in the women’s 4x100m medley relay Saturday at the 2012 Olympic Games, turning in a time of 3:52.05. It was one of two golds for the U.S. on the final night of the pool competition.
Also winning gold were Matt Grevers, Brendan Hansen, Michael Phelps and Nathan Adrian in the men’s 4x100m medley relay. Their time was 3:29.35.
American swimmers leave the Aquatics Centre after eight days of competition with 30 medals – 16 gold, eight silver and six bronze. It was the best showing of any nation in the swimming competition.
In terms of gold medals, this was the most successful for Team USA since it won 21 gold medals in the Soviet-boycotted Los Angeles Games in 1984. The men finished with 16 medals (8 gold, 5 silver, 3 bronze), while the women finished with 14 medals (8 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze). The women’s showing was a marked improvement over the 2008 Games in Beijing, where they also won 14 medals overall, but just two gold.
Including the 400m medley relay tonight, eight world, 25 Olympic and 11 American records have been set at the Aquatics Center in London. American swimmers set five of the world records, and nine of the Olympic marks.
Women’s 4x100m Free Medley Relay
The American women’s 400m medley relay featured four of the top female swimmers at these Games.
Coming into the relay, Franklin won four medals – golds in the 100m back, 200m back and the 800m free relay, and a bronze in the 400m free relay. Vollmer won gold and set a world record in the 100m fly, and picked up another gold in the 800m free relay, while Soni won gold and set a world record in the 200m breast and won silver in the 100m breast. Schmitt won gold in the 200m free and 800m free relay, a silver in the 400m free and bronze in the 400m free relay.
The medley unfolded just as one might expect from a lineup like that, with Team USA leading the entire way, building its distance on the field in each of the first three legs, and Schmitt bringing it home for the gold. Australia finished second in 3:54.02, while Japan finished third in 3:55.73.
“We’ve seen what we can accomplish as individuals, so to put it together was insane,” Vollmer said.
“I’ve never had so much fun,” Soni said. “In the waiting room we are usually so tense, but tonight we were laughing and having fun.”
It marked the first time the Americans have won this event at an Olympics since the 2000 Games in Sydney.
“It was unreal,” Franklin said. “That was the perfect way to end the meet. Not having done it since 2000 makes it all the more special than it already is.”
Men’s 4x100 Medley Relay
Like the women, the U.S. men’s 400m medley relay featured an all-star lineup, with the gold medalists in three of the 100-meter races – the backstroke, fly and free – represented. Hansen won bronze in the 100m breast.
The race was a little tighter than the women’s race through the first two legs, with the team falling 21-hundredths of a second behind Japan after the breaststroke leg. Phelps regained the lead in the butterfly leg, and then Adrian swam the fastest split of all 32 swimmers in the field, closing out the race in 46.65 for the gold.
Japan won silver in 3:31.26, and Australia won bronze in 3:31.58.
“I felt a little disappointed I couldn’t give these guys a bigger lead, but I knew with who was at the end (Adrian), we’d have no problem here,” said Grevers, who finished the meet with two golds and a silver.
“I think I got so excited I swam the race a little poorly, maybe not as strong as I needed to be and with a faster tempo. I needed to calm down a little. It’s tough when you have all those guys behind you. You just want to go for them.”
Hansen capped a successful two-year comeback with the relay win.
“We’re really grateful for all the people that came out and support us, and all the people who are watching at home,” Hansen said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be out here to keep swimming at 30. Every athlete that got up on the blocks this week felt the London crowd.”
American swimmers have won this relay at every Olympics since it became an event in 1960, except for the U.S.-boycotted 1980 Games in Moscow.
“We’re united, we’re tough, and we’re proud,” Grevers said.
The 400m medley relay marked the last race for Phelps, who is retiring after these Games. He leaves London with six medals overall, four gold and two silver. That’s the most of any other swimmer in the competition for the third straight Games.
He is the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals – 18 gold, two silver and two bronze. FINA honored him in front of the crowd Friday with a trophy, on which was inscribed: "The Greatest Olympic Athlete of All Time."
“I’ve been able to do everything I wanted,” Phelps said. “Throughout my career, I’ve put my mind to certain goals and have wanted to do things no one else has ever done. Bob and I have been able to do every single thing. It’s time for me to move on.
“It was an emotional night for Bob and (me). I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without him. I love him to death and can’t thank him enough.”
Women’s 50m Freestyle
The entire field of the women’s 50m free was separated by just 64-hundredths of a second. The Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo came out on top with an Olympic record time of 24.05. Russia’s Aliaksandra took silver in 24.28, while the Netherlands Marleen Veldhuis took bronze in 24.39. The USA’s Jessica Hardy was seventh in 24.62.
Hardy is the world record-holder in the 100m breaststroke but has represented the U.S. in the 50 free at the last three major international meets, including the 2010 Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships and the 2011 World Championships. She won gold at Pan Pacs and placed eighth at Worlds.
Saturday was her first Olympic final in an individual event. She also won silver in the 400m free relay on the first night of competition and competed in the prelims of the women’s 400m medley relay Friday morning.
Men’s 1500m Freestyle
China’s Sun Yang broke the world record in the men’s 1500m freestyle in 14:31.02, besting the former mark of 14:34.14, which he set at last year’s World Championships. Finishing behind him were Ryan Cochrane of Canada for the silver in 14:39.63 and Ous Mellouli of Tunisia for the bronze in 14:40.31. Mellouli was the defending Olympic champ, and Cochrane won bronze in this event in Beijing.
The USA’s Connor Jaeger finished sixth in 14:52.99. It was his first career Olympic final.