Tatjana Schoenmaker Breaks a World Swimming Record, U.S. Wins Three More Medals


American swimmers added two silvers and a bronze to their growing medal haul in swimming on Friday morning, widening their advantage on their rivals in the pool but falling short of the golds they covet most of all.

Ryan Murphy won a silver in the men’s 200-meter backstroke, and Lilly King and Annie Lazor earned silver and bronze in the women’s 200-meter breaststroke, beaten to the wall only by a South African, Tatjana Schoenmaker, who set a world record.

With four more finals on Friday, the Olympic swim meet has reached the point where it’s safe to begin drawing some broad conclusions about what has gone on in the world’s strongest swimming countries the past five years.

Americans have captured 24 medals overall heading into the final two days of competition, compared with 14 for their biggest rival, swimming-mad Australia, which, it should be noted, has about one-tenth the population of the United States. The United States will most likely not match its high-water mark of 2016, when the team won 34 medals, 16 of them gold, but it should get within spitting distance of that total.

Friday morning’s finals brought three more.

In the 200-meter breaststroke, Schoenmaker lived up to expectations, topping King and Lazor and claiming both a world record (2 minutes 18.95 seconds) but also South Africa’s first gold of the Games.

King came out blazing and had the lead until the final 50 meters of the race, but Schoenmaker, the silver medalist in the 100-meter event, came off the turn flying and with 25 meters to go nudged ahead of King on the strength of a relentless kick, beating her to the wall by nearly a second.

Lazor, whose father died earlier this year, took the bronze by four-hundredths of a second. After the race, she and King swam over to congratulate Schoenmaker, who did not initially realize she had broken the world record. When she did, she gasped, and Lazor raised her rival’s arm in triumph.

In the 200-meter backstroke, Evgeny Rylov of Russia won a two-man duel with Murphy of the United States. Rylov set an Olympic record of 1 minute 53.27 seconds. Murphy was the defending Olympic champion in the event, and Americans have historically been reliably strong in the backstroke. But Rylov took control of the race on the second turn, stretching his lead to a half-second at the halfway mark and finishing about a half-body ahead of Murphy. He won by 0.88 of a second.

Then the women took the spotlight once more for the 100-meter freestyle. And this was Australia’s chance to shine.

With Cate Campbell and Emma McKeon swimming next to one another in lanes 3 and 4, and a crowd of their green-and-yellow-clad teammates and coaches packing one section of the empty arena, the race quickly turned into an Aussie celebration.

McKeon was the favorite in the event and won easily, setting an Olympic record of 51.96 seconds, more than a quarter of a second faster than Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong. Campbell took the bronze, just ahead of Canada’s Penny Oleksiak.

The last final of the morning was the men’s 200-meter individual medley, which gave the Americans yet another shot for some hardware in Michael Andrew, who has been eyeing his Olympic moment for years. Andrew, 22, turned professional at 14 and was home-schooled, in part, to maximize his training opportunities.

Andrew was right on the pace for the first three-quarters of the race. He led after the butterfly leg, gave up the lead to Shun Wang of China on the backstroke leg, but reclaimed it by the end of the breaststroke. Then Wang proved too much, steaming past Andrew with a water-churning freestyle. So did Duncan Scott of Britain, who took the silver, and Jeremy Desplanches of Switzerland, who captured the bronze. Andrew finished fifth, behind Daiya Seto of Japan.

Australia will not catch the U.S. in overall medals, but the country has already achieved a massive improvement over 2016, when it won only three gold medals and 10 overall. McKeon’s gold was Australia’s sixth in swimming in Tokyo — the same number won by American swimmers — and the weekend holds the promise of more for both countries.

In the 100-meter butterfly semifinals on Friday, Caeleb Dressel of the U.S. and Kristof Milak of Hungary set themselves up for showdown in Saturday’s final. Dressel holds the world record in the event and set the Olympic record in a preliminary heat. Milak then broke it in the semifinal and held it for about three minutes, until Dressel broke it in his heat, clocking in at 49.71 seconds, just 21-hundredths of a second off his world record.



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Written by bourbiza

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