Missy Franklin won gold and set a record in the 200-meter backstroke on Friday. Michael Phelps earned his 21st career medal and 17th gold in the 100-meter butterfly. The 15-year-old American Katie Ledecky won the 800-meter freestyle.
That’s how it went down for Team USA in the pool Friday at the London Olympics.
Phelps edged his young South African rival Chad Le Clos, finishing in 51.21 seconds to Le Clos’s 51.44. Russia’s Evgeny Korotyshkin was third. The 100 fly was the only event in which Phelps did not set a world record when he won an unprecedented eight golds at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, and on Thursday night he had made it clear how important it was for him to go out a winner. And that was what he did.
Phelps emerged from the pool like a prizefighter, arms over his head, as applause rained down from a crowd that included Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge. He then put his arm around Le Clos, the man he has seemingly tapped as his successor as an all-around threat, and they joked as they walked away from the pool.
started fast and never looked back in winning the 200 backstroke, shattering the world record while winning her third gold medal of the Games. Franklin, 17, finished in a time of 2 minutes 4.06 seconds, nearly a second ahead of the silver medalist, Anastasia Zueva of Russia, and two and a half seconds ahead of her teammate Elizabeth Beisel, who took the bronze.
At 6 feet 1 inch, Franklin glided through the water with a speed and effortlessness that her rivals could not match. When she touched the wall and looked up at the clock, a wide smile — her customary expression when not churning her arms through the water — spread across her face.
Franklin’s results at these Games have been mixed, perhaps a sign of her youth and her heavy schedule. She won the 100 backstroke Monday, but finished fourth in the 200 freestyle a day later and fifth in the 100 freestyle Thursday. Counting relays, Friday’s medal was Franklin’s fourth of the Games. She can add a fifth Saturday in her last event, the 400 medley relay.
Meanwhile, Ledecky spoiled Britain’s victory party, and she could not have been happier about it.
Ledecky, of the United States, scalded a field that included the defending champion, Rebecca Adlington of Britain, in winning the gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle. For most of the race, Ledecky, 15, was on a pace to break Adlington’s world record in the event, set during her gold medal swim in Beijing four years ago, but she fell just 53-hundredths of a second short of that, finishing in 8 minutes 14.63 seconds.
Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain won the silver, her second of the Games, and Adlington the bronze. Belmonte Garcia finished more than four seconds behind Ledecky, Adlington nearly six.
The crowd did all it could to will Adlington to victory, singing “God Save the Queen” before the evening program began and chanting “Becky! Becky!” as she raced.
But Adlington had no chance against Ledecky. She was well beaten, as they say here, even if she did keep her record.