17-year-old American takes gold in 100 backstroke 

click to enlarge Missy Franklin holds up an American flag after winning a gold medal in the women's 100m backstroke finals during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Aquatics Centre. - RICHARD MACKSON/US PRESSWIRE
  • Richard Mackson/US PRESSWIRE
  • Missy Franklin holds up an American flag after winning a gold medal in the women's 100m backstroke finals during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Aquatics Centre.

If Olympic success comes as naturally to Missy Franklin as exuberance and enthusiasm, then she has a swimming future so golden one almost needs sunglasses to contemplate it.

The 17-year-old American’s first gold of the London Games on Monday, the 100-meter backstroke, may have been widely predicted, but the taste of victory still exceeded all her expectations.

The teenager, competing in a record seven events in her first Olympics, overhauled Australia’s Emily Seebohm in the final few strokes to get her hand on the wall first in a time of 58.33 seconds.

“When you dream about something your whole life and you achieve it, you just don’t really understand what you just did,” Franklin said. “And I definitely don’t think I did, but I couldn’t be happier right now.”

Monday’s final was not just her second race of the day, but the second in the space of 13 minutes, and against rested opponents.

Franklin, winner of five medals at the last world championships in Shanghai including three golds, has entered seven events in London in a bid to become the first female swimmer to win more than six golds at a single Games.

That meant swimming a 200 freestyle semifinal before the medal event in a discipline that demands total focus.

Elsewhere around the pool Monday, Lithuania celebrated its first Olympic swimming medal when 15-year-old Ruta Meilutyte survived the ultimate test of nerves in the 100 breaststroke. Meilutyte beat American Rebecca Soni by just 0.08, with Japan’s Satomi Suzuki third.

The towering Matt Grevers led a U.S. one-two in the 100 backstroke final.

Grevers used every inch of his 6-foot-8 frame to stretch out and win the 100 gold ahead of his teammate Nick Thoman in 52.92, while Japan’s Ryosuke Irie got the bronze medal.

Yannick Agnel led all the way to win the individual 200 free gold in 1:43.14. China’s Sun Yang deadheated for second place with South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan in 1:44.93 while Ryan Lochte, the reigning world champion, was fourth, marking the first time in three days of competition the U.S. failed to win a medal in a swimming final.

Michael Phelps did not compete in any of the four medal races, but safely booked his spot in today’s 200 butterfly final where he can equal Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s long-standing Olympic record of 18 career medals.

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