Day 3: France and Lithuania score improbable swimming victories

[nivo_slider source=”post” link=”image” size=”625×450″ limit=”30″ effect=”random” speed=”600″ delay=”3000″]LONDON, England  ●   Lithuanian swimmer Ruta Meilutyte struck Olympic gold on Monday in the women’s 100 metres breaststroke aged just 15, capping a dramatic day in the pool where Frenchman Yannick Agnel also beat an American favourite to win the men’s 200 metre freestyle.

On the third full day of competition in London, Chinese swimming sensation Ye Shiwen’s world record win in the 400 individual medley on Saturday raised eyebrows in the world’s media about the 16-year-old, prompting her to deny that she had taken performance-enhancing drugs.

In the 400m individual medley finals on Saturday night, Ye powered to gold in 4:28.43, shaving more than a second off the previous world record, and shattering her own personal best by a full five seconds.

More astounding still, sitting second to American Elizabeth Beisel as the race entered its final 100 metres, Ye turned on the jets and left the reigning world champion flailing for the silver.

The 16-year-old’s splits for the freestyle leg—29.25 for the first 50m, then 28.93 for the last length of the pool—were not only way faster than any of her competitors, they were faster than anyone in the men’s 400m IM.

Ryan Lochte of the U.S., considered the best all-around swimmer on the planet at the moment, swam his last leg 0.17 seconds slower on the way to a gold.

Ye has never failed a test, and Chinese officials have expressed annoyance that the issue is even being raised. She is, they say, a product of a program that now identifies talent at an extremely young age and nutures it along.

In Ye’s case, it was her kindergarten teacher who guided her toward the pool after noticing she had extremely large hands for a five-year-old.

Ye said herself that she brushed aside doping suspicions.

“My results come from hard work and training and I would never use any banned drugs. The Chinese people have clean hands,” she told reporters.

But it were other heroics in the water that set ablaze the Olympic village, and in particular those of Meilutyte, the first swimmer from her country to win an Olympic medal.

The Lithuanian had to do it the hard way, surviving a fierce challenge from American Rebecca Soni, the reigning world champion in the event, and just holding her off at the death.

“I can’t believe it,” a stunned Meilutyte managed to say in a post-race poolside interview.

Agnel, a 20-year-old who reads the poetry of Charles Baudelaire between races to relax, captured a second gold medal in 24 hours after his stunning anchor leg won France the 4×100 freestyle relay the previous night.

And he had to beat a stellar field including U.S. world champion Ryan Lochte who ended up fourth.

The United States caught up some ground on China in the medals rankings, however, with two late golds in the pool.

Matt Grevers collected his first individual gold in the final of the men’s 100 metres backstroke while teenager Missy Franklin won the women’s 100 backstroke.

It took the U.S. gold tally to five by the end of the third full day of competition, still four golds behind medal table leaders China on nine.

American Michael Phelps has a chance to make history on Tuesday by becoming the most decorated Olympian if he scores medals in two men’s finals.

It would take his tally to 19, one more than the current all-time record of 18 held by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.

London’s transport system largely defied predictions of gridlock on the first regular working day of the 2012 Games.

Transport bosses expect an extra three million journeys per day on top of the usual 12 million during the Games, an Olympian test for an underground train network that first opened in 1863 during the reign of Queen Victoria.

On the first morning rush hour since the Games opened on Friday night, commuters said buses, trains and the metro were working surprisingly smoothly with a few hiccups, and roads were generally clear.

Chris Round, 23, from Boston, Massachusetts, took the Underground and Docklands Light Railway to watch the judo.

“It was real easy to get to,” he said. We just got on the first train that came. It was kinda crowded but it wasn’t bad.”

Host nation Britain was still waiting for its first gold medal, but a bronze in the men’s team gymnastics felt almost as good as it ended a 100-year wait for any medal in the event.

Princes William and Harry, grandsons of Queen Elizabeth, led the support at a raucous North Greenwich Arena, and the loud cheers were muted only slightly when an initial silver medal was downgraded following an appeal by the Japanese team. Other royals were also at the event.

In other medal action, China’s Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan won the men’s synchronised 10 metre platform diving and compatriot Li Xueying broke two Olympic records on the way to the women’s 58 kilogram weight division in the weighlifting.

Romania took its first gold with Alin George Moldoveanu’s surprise victory in the 10m air rifle event, and on a packed day of sport Russia’s Mansur Isaev triumphed in the 73kg men’s judo after a fast and furious fight with Japan’s Riki Nakaya.


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