Phelps surges toward exit as Franklin, Ledecky rise to stardom
LONDON -- Three thoughts from Friday night's Olympic swimming finals ...
Phelps, who took a half-stroke to out-touch Cavic by .01 in 2008, didn't have a great finish tonight, either, but decided to glide in instead. Though he won by a comfortable margin compared to 2004 and 2008, it left Debbie Phelps slumped over a rail in the stands while Phelps dipped his head into the pool and spewed out water. Phelps, now with 21 career Olympic medals and 17 golds, has one swim left at these Games, the 4x100 medley relay Saturday. The fears from that fourth-place finish in the 400 IM on the opening night have been replaced by overwhelming confidence. It's clear he's peaking (relatively) as his career comes to a close.
Franklin's haul now stands at three golds and one bronze with a likely fourth gold to come Saturday night in the 4x100 medley relay. She is the first U.S. woman to win three golds at a single Games since Jenny Thompson in 2000 (Amy Van Dyken won four in 1996). Most point to Natalie Coughlin's six-medal haul in Beijing as the best performance by an American female Olympian. Franklin can't match the six total medals, but for as impressive as Coughlin's feat was, she only won one gold. Even Franklin's non-medal swims were impressive. She finished fourth in the 200 freestyle, missing a bronze by .01 and shaving one second off her trials time. In the 100 free, an event she wasn't supposed to medal in, she took fifth but swam the semis and the final a half-second faster than she did at trials. In the relays, Franklin was the fastest leg on the 4x100 free (tough to do when leading off on a flat start) and put the U.S. in first place (they finished third). She also led off the 4x200 free relay with the third-best time, only beaten by the silver and bronze medalists in the individual 200 free on a stacked leg. Of course, the Americans won gold there. To put it simply, Franklin lived up to the hype in London.
An American hadn't won the women's distance free since Evans and Brooke Bennett combined for four straight titles from 1988 through 2000. But Evans was old enough to drive and see an R-rated movie when she won her first gold. Ledecky, of course, can do neither without adult supervision. Her climb has been steep. She was ranked 55th in the world in the 800 free last year. In Friday's final, she shaved five seconds off her time from Olympic trials. Ledecky was also third in the 400 free at trials. It doesn't look like she'll be a one-event swimmer in 2016.