Cal at the Olympics: Swimmer Katie McLaughlin Grabs Silver in Relay

Ryan Murphy, Bryce Mefford reach 200 backstroke final. Rower Joachim Sutton wins bronze medal. Collin Morikawa 7 strokes back in golf suspended by lightning.
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Former Cal standout Katie McLaughlin swam the third leg on the United States' women's 4x200 freestyle relay team that surpassed the previous world record in the final at the Tokyo Olympics, although that was only good enough to place second and earn the team members silver medals.

In fact, the top three finishers in the 4x200 relay final Thursday (Wednesday night in California) bettered the previous world record.  And the biggest surprise was that the team that barely beat the Americans for the gold was not the heavily favored Australian swimmers but China.

The Chinese foursome finished with a time of 7:40.33, just four-tenths of a second faster the the Americans, who finished ahead of third-place Australia by 0.56 of second thanks to a strong anchor leg by Katie Ledecky.

Ledecky claimed her second silver medal in this Olympics to go along with a gold, and for her Olympic career she now has won nine medals, six of which are gold.

But McLaughlin played a critical role in the Americans' medal-winning performance. She swam her leg in 1:55.3 and got the U.S. into third place before giving way to Ledecky, who was clocked in 1:53.7 as she passed the Aussies and threatened China.

"It was like a dream," McLaughlin told NBC in her post-race interview. "Before we walked out, I had said to Katie [Ledecky], this is like a dream walking out on a finals relay for the U.S. I'm biased that the 800 free is the best one. I can't even explain."

McLaughlin swam at Cal beginning in 2016 but suffered a neck injury in training and did not qualify for the NCAA Championships. By her senior season of 2019, McLaughlin set school records in the 100 and 200 butterfly, and she actually had more success in butterfly events than freestyle while at Cal.

Katie Ledecky (left) and Katie McLaughlin after a second-place finish. Photo by Grace Hollars, USA Today

Katie Ledecky (left) and Katie McLaughlin after a second-place finish. Photo by Grace Hollars, USA Today

--Two former Cal swimmers, both representing the United States, were in the same semifinal heat of the men’s 200 backstroke, and both advanced to the finals.

Ryan Murphy, who won a bronze medal in the 100 backstroke, finished second in the 200 heat in a time of 1:55.38, and Bryce Mefford placed fourth in that same heat while clocking 1:56.37.

Murphy’s time was the third-best in the two semifinal heats and Mefford’s time was sixth-best, so both finished among the top eight swimmers who will swim in the finals in pursuit of medals.

Bryce Mefford (left) and Ryan Murphy after their semifinal heat. Photo by Grace Hollars, USA Today

Bryce Mefford (left) and Ryan Murphy after their semifinal heat. Photo by Grace Hollars, USA Today

---Abbey Weitzeil qualified for the 100 freestyle final, but barely. She finished third in her heat in a time of 52.99. That was the seventh-best time in the two semifinal heats, and that was enough to get her into the eight-swimmer final. The ninth-fastest time was 53.12, so Weitzeil qualified for the finals by just .13 of a second.

---Spain's Hugo Gonzalez, who competed for Cal this past season, finished sixth in his semifinal heat of the 200 individual medley and did not qualify for the final.

Bronze for rower Joachim Sutton

Three members of the Cal varsity eight that won a collegiate national championship in 2016 (Joachim Sutton, Martin Mackovic and Niki van Sprang) were in action in men’s pair competition Wednesday (Thursday in Japan), and two of them competed in the final A, which was the race for medals.

---Sutton picked up a bronze medal for Denmark as he and partner Frederic Vystavel finished third in the men’s pair final A. Denmark finished behind Croatia and Romania, but held on to edge out fourth-place Canada by .15 of a second to capture bronze.

---Mackovic, also competed in that pairs final A, but his boat, representing Serbia, finished fifth and out of the medal race.

---Van Sprang was part of the Netherland entry that finished first in the men’s pair final B, which put the Dutch in seventh place overall.

The 2016 Cal national champion varsity eight:

Frederic Vystavel and Joachim Sutton in the men's pair final A. Photo by Michael Madrid, USA Today

Frederic Vystavel and Joachim Sutton in the men's pair final A. Photo by Michael Madrid, USA Today

---Mackovic, also competed in that pairs final A, but his boat, representing Serbia, finished fifth and out of the medal race.

---Van Sprang was part of The Netherlands entry that finished first in the men’s pair final B, which put the Dutch in seventh place overall.

The 2016 Cal national champion varsity eight:

---Former Cal rower Kara Kohler, representing USA, finished fourth in her semifinal heat of the women’s single scull, but only the first three finishers in the heat advanced to the final A.

She finished half a second -- .51 of a second to be precise – behind the third-place finisher Magdalena Lobnig of Austria.

Kohler will compete in the final B in attempt to place seventh overall.

---Another former Cal rower, Gennaro di Mauro of Italy, also placed fourth in the men’s single scull semifinal and failed to qualify for the final A. But he finished more than four seconds behind the third-place finisher.

Morikawa's golf round interrupted on 14th hole

Collin Morikawa was on the 14th green with a score of 1 under par when his opening round of golf at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, Japan, was suspended because of lightning in the area.

At that point, he was seven strokes behind the leader, Sepp Straka of Austria, who finished his round with an 8-under-par 63.

Just like a typical PGA event, the Olympic golf competition consists of four rounds and the lowest 72-hole score will win the gold medal.

Collin Morikawa. Photo by Kyle Terada.

Collin Morikawa. Photo by Kyle Terada.

Hooper, Cupido score, but USA loses in water polo

Former Golden Bears Johnny Hooper (one goal) and Luca Cupido (two goals) combined for three goals for the men's USA water polo team, but the Americans let an 11-9 lead in the fourth quarter get away in a 12-11 loss to Italy in Group A play. The Americans are now 2-1 in group play while Italy has two wins and one tie.

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Cover photo of Katie Ledecky and Katie McLaughlin by Grace Hollars, USA Today

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Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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