By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
As far as momentous sporting moments go, it was relatively devoid of drama. The hard work of Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer and Ricky Berens set up Michael Phelps perfectly for a virtual procession and pretty much all the record-breaking American needed to do was avoid drowning in his 200 metres.
As it happened, Phelps performed like the gladiator in speedos that he is, completing his leg over a second faster than any of his team-mates. And he needed that cushion and speed thanks to the efforts of superstar in the making, Yannick Agnel of France, who was almost a second faster than Phelps on his nation’s anchor leg and almost three seconds quicker than any of his team-mates.
Michael Phelps’ 19th Olympic medal may have not been his most dramatic, but it may well have been his most satisfying. Not long before, he claimed his 18th medal of his Olympic career, but it was only a silver in his strongest event. It was race he should have won, but Chad le Clos’s stronger finish in the 200 metre butterfly only added to suggestions that Phelps is no longer the power he once was. He found his form not long after and eight years and 18 medals since winning his first medal he became the most successful athlete in Olympic history.
Having already overtaken such legends as all rounder, Carl Lewis, fellow swimmer Mark Spitz and long distance specialist Paavo Nurmi, Russian gymnast, Larissa Latynina remained the only name between at the summit of the prestigious list. When she won her last medal at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964, it looked like the bar had been raised to an unreachable height.
It’s taken almost 50 years, but Phelps has surpassed it and now has the chance to put daylight between himself and the other greats. The next step in extending his lead and racking up medal number 20 comes in the hearts of the Men’s 200 metre individual medley. Phelps is looking to win the event for the third time in succession, but the world record Ryan Lochte set in Shanghai last year suggests he’s up against it. Phelps beat Lochte in to silver and bronze positions in 2004 and 2008 respectively, but the New Yorker’s improvement in recent years makes him the ½ favourite to prevail.
The evening session at the Aquatic Centre should provide another exciting evening and Team GB’s Michael Jamieson has a great chance of gold in the 200 metre breaststroke. Yannick Agnel has caught the eye so far at these games and he’s got hopes of winning the 100 metre freestyle. Australian, James Magnussen is considered the man most likely to deny him gold. In the women’s events, there’s more playing out of the China v USA rivalry through the medium of sport in the 200 metres butterfly. Jiao Liuyang from the glorious people’s’ republic is favourite at 10/11, but Kathleen Hersey from the land of opportunity is snapping at her heels and rated a 6/4 to cause an upset. The rivalry gets expanded to the teams in the 4 x 200 metre freestyle relay albeit with the addition of the Australians, who no-one really has a beef with, even if they are kinda cocky.