Highlights from the Pool at London 2012 | By Sasha Sproule

The first few days of the 2012 Olympics are soaked in stories from swim competitions. Sasha Sproule of the Pandas Swim Team is here to guide you through the first portion of action.

It has been an exciting first few days in the pool with many surprise outcomes, records falling and unexpected swim-offs. The Canadian team is starting off strong with swimmers making their way into the semifinals, and some even through to the finals.

On the first day of Competition in the 400 meter individual medley, Ryan Lochte took the gold while Michael Phelps coming in 4th spot. Lochte led the race from start to finish and continued to lengthen his lead throughout the race over the Brazilian swimmer Thiago Pereira who claimed the silver.

Ryan Cochrane was ninth in the 400 meter free. Originally eighth, however,  because of a false start by the Korean swimmer Park Taehwan, resulting in a disqualification. The aquatics governing body FINA overturned the disqualification after looking over the film and electronic timing, pushing Cochrane down to the ninth place position. The event ended with Yang Sun taking the gold and Park Taehwan taking the silver. It was a very exciting race with Taehwan leading most of the way and Sun with an outstanding last 100 meters to out-touch Taehwan for the gold.

Day two of competition was also an exciting day at the pool. Scott Dickens of Canada set a Canadian record in the 100 meter breaststroke and swam his way into the semifinal but failed to qualify to swim for the medals in the final. Although Scott Dickens didn’t qualify to swim in the final, it was still an exciting final to watch. Kosuke Kitajima, two-time Olympic champion in this event, who was again a favorite to win, ended up in fifth position. It was a great swim for the South African swimmer Cameron Van der Burgh, winning the gold and breaking the world record that was set back in the days of the super-suits that have since been banned.

In the 100 meter butterfly, the American Dana Vollmer claimed the gold in a world record time of 55.98. She was the first female swimmer to break the 56-second barrier in the 100 meter fly event. This is her second Olympic games; her first was Athens in 2004, and she missed the Beijing games in 2008. Rookie to the Canadian team Katerine Savard managed to sneak into the semifinals in the 100 meter butterfly in the 16th position.

In the women’s 400 meter freestyle, Canadian Brittany MacLean, a rookie to the Canadian team, had a great swim in the morning lowering her own Canadian record and making it into the Olympic final. She finished in seventh overall.

On day three in the pool, they started with the semifinals in the women’s 200 meter freestyle. Two Canadians made it through to the semis placing 10th for Barbara Jardin and 11th for Samantha Cheverton overall. In the men’s 200 meter freestyle, French swimmer Yannick Agnel took the gold by over a body length with Park Taehwan and Yang Sun tied for the silver medal. Ryan Lochte of the United Stated finished just off the podium in fourth.

In the woman’s 100 meter breaststroke, it was an exciting event for both Canadian swimmers Jillian Tyler and Tera Van Beilen, both getting a chance to swim in the semifinals. Rookie Tera Van Beilen had quite the day after her semifinal; she was tied in the 8th spot, meaning she would have to swim a swim-off to determine whether she would be swimming for the medals in the finals. After the swim-off, Tera ended up being ninth overall, not bad at all for her first Olympic games! It was very exciting to watch on TV since swim-offs don’t often happen at the Olympic games. In the final 15 year-old Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania took the gold medal after leading the race from start to finish. The 15 year-old was being run down by American swimmer Rebecca Soni who finished a mere eight-hundredths of a second behind Meilutyte.

In the 100 meter backstroke the young American Missy Franklin won the gold just 20 minutes after swimming in the semifinals in the 200 meter free. Missy has an interesting tie to Canada, since both of her parents are Canadian, and she also has duel citizenship. As for the Canadians in the 100 meter backstroke Julia Wilkinson, who swims at the Victoria Academy of Swimming, ended up ninth overall by only a tenth of a second, and Sinead Russell placed 16th overall in her first Olympics. On the men’s side in the 100 meter backstroke, Matt Grevers of the USA came in with the win and his teammate Nick Thoman took the silver medal.

Day four in the pool started off with the final in the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay. Team Canada was going into the finals in the third spot hoping to be competitive for a medal. Unfortunately, the French team out-touched them in the finals for the bronze, behind Australia in silver and the Americans for the gold medal. Either way it was a great swim for the Canadian team.

Next on the agenda at the pool was the final in the men’s 200 meter breaststroke. Again, the two-time defending Olympic champion fell short of the medals; Kosuke Kitajima of Japan finished 4th being out-touched by his teammate, Ryo Tateishi for the bronze. The Hungarian swimmer Daniel Gyurta took the gold in a world record time of 2:07.28 and British swimmer Michael Jamieson took the silver.

Probably the most exciting moment of the finals on August 1, especially for Canada, was the men’s 100meter freestyle final. Brent Hayden, who trains in Vancouver BC, got the first medal for the Canadian team in the pool. At his third Olympic games, Hayden took the bronze in the 100 free final, the first medal for Canada ever in that event. Finishing ahead of Hayden was James Magnussen of Austrailia and Nathan Adrian of the United States.

There are still a few more events to come in the pool in London, and they promise to be exciting with more medal potentials for Canada.

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