By RACHEL BACHMAN And GEOFFREY A. FOWLER
European Pressphoto Agency
Missy Franklin celebrated after winning the women’s 200-meter backstroke Friday.
LONDON—As if they hadn’t amassed enough gaudy jewelry in these Olympic Games, American swimmers broke out yet another dazzling display Friday night, winning three of four available gold medals in the pool.
Teenager Missy Franklin won her third gold medal here by setting a world record in the 200-meter backstroke, her time of 2:04.06 blasting past the previous record by three-quarters of a second. The Zimbabwean Kirsty Coventry set the mark of 2:04.81 in 2009, when swimmers were using now-banned high-tech swimsuits. “I just wanted to go a best time tonight, and that just happened to be a gold medal and a world record,” said the 17-year-old Franklin.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Missy Franklin celebrates after winning gold in the 200-meter backstroke.
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Later Friday, Michael Phelps won his final individual race to add to his record Olympic medal count, Cullen Jones took silver in the 50-meter freestyle and 15-year-old Katie Ledecky, not yet able to drive herself to swimming practice, won the 800-meter freestyle with the second-fastest time in history.
“I thought she would be good,” said Bob Bowman, Phelps’s coach, “but that was really good.”
As for Phelps, he won the 100-meter butterfly for the third time in three Olympics, finishing ahead of South African Chad le Clos and Russian Evgeny Korotyshkin, who tied. It was the second time in two days that Phelps three-peated, yet another superlative in a career already overflowing with them. No other male swimmer has won the same event in three Olympics.
Perhaps the night’s biggest surprise was the bronze-medal finish in the 50-meter freestyle of Brazilian Cesar Cielo, the world-record holder and reigning gold medalist. France’s Florent Manaudou won the race in 21.34, followed by Jones in 21.54. Cielo finished .05 behind Jones in a deflating finish for Brazil ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Cielo’s victory in Beijing remains the only gold medal ever won by a Brazilian swimmer.
American teenager Missy Franklin set a world record in the 200-meter backstroke Friday night, and Michael Phelps won his final individual race to add to his record Olympic medal count. Ben Cohen has details on The News Hub. Photos: Getty Images/Reuters.
Franklin has been the breakout swimming star of these Olympics. She now has three golds—in the 100-meter backstroke and 4×200-meter freestyle relay—and a bronze in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. (Franklin finished fourth in the 200-meter freestyle and 5th in the 100-meter freestyle.) Her win in Friday’s 200-meter backstroke marks the first time an American woman has won the event since 1972, and the third time in history.
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European Pressphoto Agency
Michael Phelps took gold in what he called his final Olympic race Friday.
For Phelps, no stranger to history, the victory brings his career Olympic medal total to 21, more than any other athlete. He has said the London Games will be his last world-level swimming competition. Phelps has three golds and two silvers in six events in these Olympics. Looking back on his record performance of eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008, Phelps said it was a perfect alignment.
“Going through everything that I went through this week and feeling how I have felt definitely shows that I was in the best shape of my life in 2008,” Phelps said. “I always said I wanted to change the sport and take it to a new level. That has been a goal since I was 15. If I can say I’ve done that, then that is all I want.”
Saturday night will provide a send-off for both Franklin and Phelps, who will swim in their respective 4-by-100-meter medley relays to cap this week’s swimming schedule—and perhaps add one last medal for the road.
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