With the pageantry of the Opening Ceremony out of the way, night 1 of the swimming program saw four medal events taking place, two men’s and two women’s with a couple of semi finals in there too. Each day of the games I’ll be bringing you a brief recap of all the medal races from the Aquatic Centre so let’s get started with Day 1.
MEN’S 400m IDIVIDUAL MEDLEY
One of the feature races of the entire swimming meet lead off the entire competition with the head-to-head matchup of Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps in the 400m IM. In the end the fans were not treated to the grandstand finish that they were hoping for as Lochte cruised to a comfortable win by 3.68 seconds. In a minor upset however, Phelps failed to medal in this event finishing fourth which, given his qualifying time, was actually a good effort. He was beaten out for the silver medal by Thiago Pereira from Brazil and Kosuke Hagino from Japan who both swam fantastic races. The rest of the field finished a fair way behind as Chad le Clos lead the chasing pack over seven second seconds behind.
MEN’S 400m FREESTYLE
Before the final had even started, there was a controversy surrounding the makeup of the final as South Korean swimmer Tae-Hwan Park was disqualified for a false start after the new diving blocks had detected movement in the heats. FINA’s technical committee overruled the decision and allowed the results to stand, meaning Park was swimming in the final. It was certainly a beneficial decision for the South Korean swimmer as he managed to secure a silver medal ahead of American Peter Vanderkaay. The gold medal went to Chinese swimmer Yang Sun who posted a new Olympic record time of 3:40.14 for an almost 2 second win.
WOMEN’S 400m INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY
For the other star of the Beijing Games, Stephanie Rice, her return to the pool would be equally disappointing as Michael Phelps’s return. Rice finished equal sixth in the final, showing that the shoulder injury she had been carrying for so long really had hampered her preparation. She does remain a favourite to defend her 200 IM crown however which will come later in the week. The Chinese swimmers dominated this event with their two qualifiers winning gold and bronze, bookending American swimmer Elizabeth Beisel who won the silver. Xuanxu Li took out the bronze medal 4.48 seconds behind gold medal winner Shiwen Ye who broke the world record with a time of 4:28.43.
WOMEN’S 4x100m FREESTYLE RELAY
The night’s program ended with the most surprising result of the entire night as the Australian team came out of nowhere to claim a gold medal in an Olympic record time of 3:33.15 beating out much more fancied opposition. The star for the gold medallists was anchor swimmer Melanie Schalnger who posted a team best time of 52.65 seconds to win Australia’s first gold of the competition. It was not without tense moments though as the Netherlands were pressing hard for the win only to have to settle for the silver medal despite a valiant effort by their anchor Romy Kromowidjojo (apologies for any spelling errors there) who came home in 51.93 seconds. Rounding out the podium was the American team headed by teen superstar Missy Franklin who all performed admirably.