July 29, 2011
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
After the season he had in 2010 and his change in training, diet and mindset, was there ever any doubt Ryan Lochte wouldn’t dominate the 2011 FINA World Aquatic Championships?
The Floridian won two more gold medals, one individual and one relay, Friday night at the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China.
Lochte dominated the 200-meter backstroke field and then came back and unloaded a monster anchor leg to lead the U.S. to victory in the 800-meter freestyle relay.
Lochte won the backstroke in 1 minute, 52.96 seconds, a full body length ahead of Japan’s Ryosuke Irie, who took silver in 1:54.11 and American Tyler Clary won the bronze in 1:54.69.
Lochte came from behind and again won by a body length to clinch the relay gold for teammates Michael Phelps, Lochte training mate Peter Vanderkaay and Ricky Berens. The U.S. won in 7:02.67 followed by France in 7:04.81 and China in 7:05.67. Phelps was not in the lead after his opening leg.
“I have a lot of confidence, especially after what happened last year,” Lochte said. “I still have one more individual race left to finish off this meet, then after that great ready for 2012.
“The 200 backstroke was my best time by over a second, but I don’t that that was a good time for me,” Lochte said. “I can go a lot faster. I still have a whole year. There are some things I’ve got to work on, so I have a whole year to work on it, and hopefully I’ll improve on that next year.”
Lochte was excited about the relay’s finish.
“Once we hit around the 75-meter mark, I knew it was over,” Lochte said. “I knew I had a lot of energy left, and I was going to hit that second wall and just go for it.
“You can never go in a race and count anyone out. No matter what happens, there’s always going to be someone right there with you, and you’ve just kind of got to go into the race with that mentality.”
Lochte moved into second place as all-time greatest swimmer in world championships history with 11 gold medals, three silver and three bronze since 2005.
Said U.S. teammate Tyler Clary, “It’s a definite changing of the guard. Some people might say, you know, Michael’s not exactly on his game. But all that matters at a race is who came most prepared on that day and lately it’s looking like Ryan.”
American Rebecca Soni continued her dominance in the breaststroke winning the gold medal in 2:21.47 completing her breaststroke sweep. Russia’s Yuliya Effimova took silver in 2:22.22 and Canada’s Martha McCabe finished with the bronze in 2:24.81.
“It felt great the first 100, and then I was just trying to hold on out there at the end,’ Soni said. “I ran out of gas a little bit that last half, but overall I’m really happy with it.”
Teenage phenom Missy Franklin, 16, is becoming the new face of USA Swimming after setting an American record in the 200-meter backstroke semifinals in 2:05.90, breaking Margaret Hoeltzer’s American record of 2:06.09 set in 2008.
“I definitely didn’t expect that, so that’s so exciting,” Franklin said.
NBC (Channels 5 and 6) will televise the world championships on Saturday and Sunday, 1-3 p.m.
Antigoni Roumpesi and Alexandra Asimaki led Greece to its first gold medal in the championship finals with a thrilling 9-8 victory over host China. The duo each scored three goals and held off China’s late rally with 90 seconds left.
China won its first women’s water polo silver medal and Russia took the bronze with an 8-7 win over Italy. Australia defeated two-time defending champion U.S., 10-5 for fifth place.
China’s Ma Huanhuan won the top scorer trophy of the tournament and Eleni Kouvdou of Greece won best goalkeeper.
Serbia plays Italy in the men’s gold medal match on Saturday. Hungary plays Croatia for the bronze.
Host China continues to lead the medal count with 34 total medals including 14 gold and 12 silver. The United States is second with 21 medals, ten gold and five silver and Russia with 17 including eight golds. Brazil is fourth with three medals, all gold.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org