LONDON – American swimmers won five medals – three gold, a silver and a bronze – Friday at the 2012 Olympic Games. Missy Franklin took top honors on a hot night for Team USA, winning gold and setting a world record in the women’s 200m backstroke in 2:04.06.
Fifteen-year-old Katie Ledecky also had a stellar showing with a gold medal and an American record in the Women’s 800m freestyle, turning in a time of 8:14.63. And Michael Phelps won a gold medal in the last individual event of his career, taking the men’s 100m butterfly in 51.21.
Cullen Jones and Elizabeth Beisel also won medals for the U.S. Friday, Jones with a silver in the men’s 50m freestyle (21.54) and Beisel with a bronze in the women’s 200m back (2:06.55).
Through day seven at the Aquatics Centre, the Americans’ medal count in the pool stands at 28 – 14 gold, eight silver and six bronze. They lead all nations in the swimming competition.
Women’s 200m Backstroke
Franklin was in control and ahead of world-record pace from the start of the 200m back, building about a body-length lead on the field by the end of the first 100 meters. From that point, everyone else was racing for second as she cruised home for the win.
Russia’s Anastasia Zueva took second in 2:05.92. Beisel out-dueled Great Britain’s Elizabeth Simmonds in the last lap for the bronze. It was Beisel’s final race of the meet. She also won silver in the 400m IM on the first night of competition
Franklin’s win in the 200m back marks the first time an American has won this event at an Olympic Games since 1972, when another Melissa – Melissa Belote – won both the 100 and 200 back. Franklin also won the 100m back earlier in the week, making her the first American since Belote to win both backstroke races in the same Olympiad.
Franklin has swum six events so far this meet and has one race left in tomorrow night’s finals of the 400m medley relay. She has won four medals through day 7, including gold in the 100m back and 800m medley relay, and a bronze in the 400m free relay.
“It was an incredible field I was up against,” Franklin said. “On my way home – the last 25 meters – I know I was giving it everything. I could not feel my arms and legs.
“I knew I was going to take it out fast and have fun, and that’s what I did. I’m the happiest girl alive.”
Women’s 800m Freestyle
Making her first finals appearance at a major international meet in the women’s 800m free, Ledecky was up against two seasoned veterans in Great Britain’s Rebecca Adlington and Denmark’s Lotte Friis, who qualified as the top two seeds.
Adlington is the defending Olympic and world champion and world record-holder. Friis finished second behind Adlington at last year’s World Championships.
If Ledecky was intimidated, she didn’t show it.
She was dominant, punishing the field from the start and never looking back. She was ahead by about a body length for most of the first half, and only increased that lead in the second. By the 700-meter mark, she was two body-lengths ahead of her next closest competitor, Mareia Garcia of Spain.
At the final turn, she was 31-hundredths of a second ahead of world record pace, but missed the mark – 8:14.10, set by Adlington in Beijing – by about a half a second. Garcia finished more than four seconds behind in 8:18.76, while Adlington was third in 8:20.32.
Ledecky shattered the American record of 8:16.22, set by the legendary Janet Evans on Aug. 20, 1989. That was about 7 and a half years before Ledecky was born. It was the oldest American record on the books.
“Michael’s and Missy’s races got me pumped,” Ledecky said. “I really wanted to see what I could do to represent the U.S.
“I figured I was going pretty fast. At one point, I thought, ‘If I’m not going to be close to this record, I don’t even care. I just want to get my hand on the wall first.”