Day 7-Finals: WRs for Soni, Lochte, and Phelps
Nikki Dryden
Beijing-Phelps gets to 6, winning over Lochte in the 200IM. Lochte still goes home with individual gold after winning the 200 back.

Beijing-Phelps gets to 6 winning over Lochte in the 200IM, but Lochte still goes home with individual gold after winning the 200 back.

Men's 50 Free Semi-Finals

Only Roland Schoeman (RSA) returns from the Athens podium for tomorrow's final. He won bronze behind Gary Hall Jr., and Duje Draganja (CRO). Hall missed the US Team, while Draganja posted a 21.85 to finish 10th this morning. Schoeman got his hand on the wall third in the second semi with a 21.74. His semi was won by 100 Champ, Alain Bernard (FRA) in 21.54. Second in that semi was Ashley Callus (AUS) in 21.68. Callus won bronze for the Aussies in the 4x100 free.

The first semi resulted in an Olympic Record, set by Cesar Cielo (BRA) with a 21.34. He had the clear lead from the start, touching ahead of Stefan Nystrand (SWE) in 21.71 and World Record holder Eamon Sullivan (AUS) in 21.75. "I'll just do my best," said Cielo about tomorrow's final. "I will focus on my own race and will touch the wall with my best performance. I'm not thinking about any medals. I want to get out of the water and know that that's my best."

Women's 200 Breast Final

Leisel Jones (AUS) broke the World Record in this event back in 2006, since then she hasn't been challenged. Enter Rebecca Soni (USA). Just 2 years ago she had to undergo heart surgery, which limited her training. Now she is the Olympic Champion and World Record holder. Swimming a perfect race, she held her stroke calmly until the last 25, then doubled her turnover coming home in 36.52 for a 2:20.22 to Jones' 2:22.05. "I felt great the whole time," said Soni, "but just keeping patient with my long stroke is good for me, so maybe I could have gone sooner. Hopefully, I can get better in the future, but for now I am really happy with that."

"It was a long road," said Soni since coming back. "It was a small heart procedure to take care of things and get back training well. So it was perfect timing to train well for 2 years. So it's been a good road too. For me, as I go through the meet it starts to flow better and having the opportunity to swim that race [the 100] worked for me and I swam well, so it gave me confidence."

"I didn’t have any problems refocusing, I stayed pretty calm and my emotional level went straight back to zero that night…it wasn't that hard to refocus," said Jones about the 100. "I didn’t lose gold," she continued. "I won silver. I didn’t think I lost, it is such a tough race and when you have tough competitors like Rebecca Soni, I am happy to win silver. Before I would have looked at it as a loss, but now I look at it as winning a silver."

In for bronze was Sara Nordenstam (NOR), an SMU graduate who trains in Norway in a new European Record of 2:23.02. Annamay Pierse (CAN) lowered her National Record to a 2:23.77 for 6th place.

Men's 200 Back Final

Ryan Lochte (USA), one of the greatest swimmers in the world, won his first individual Olympic gold this morning. As Lochte and his former co-World Record holder and defending Olympic Champ Aaron Peirsol (USA) were swimming stroke for stroke in the middle of the pool, Arkady Vyatchanin (RUS) took it out fast in lane 8. He led until the 150, with Lochte and Peirsol flipping tied, but it all Lochte on the final lap. He came off the final turn with his powerful underwater kick surfacing well in front. From there he turned it on, splitting a 28.88 on the last 50.

Their splits:

Lochte:         27.33, 55.77 (28.53), 1:25.06 (29.29), 1:53.94 (28.88)
Peirsol:         27.24, 55.75 (28.42), 1:25.06 (29.31), 1:54.33 (29.27)
Vyatchanin:     26.90, 55.34 (28.44), 1:24.83, (29.49), 1:54.93 (30.10)

"I can't even put it into words," said Lochte after his win. "It's my first Olympic individual gold medal. I touched the wall and was like 'thank you, finally!'"

"I knew that it was going to be a race," said Peirsol,  "and I guess when I touched the wall I thought I had given it everything I had. I can't ask for anything more in terms of what I put in. The sport we are in is about racing and anyone can win on any given day. Today was no exception, I went out and raced, gave it my all."

Women's 200 Back Semi-Finals

Swimming with her trademark come from behind style, 15 year old Elizabeth Beisel (USA) finished strong to touch in 2:07.70. Second in her heat was Reiko Nakamura (JPN) in 2:08.21, third was Elizabeth Simmonds (GBR) in 2:08.96. "It feels great," said Beisel. "I'm a little tired, but it didn’t hurt as much as I expected. I was hoping to get top 3 in my heat. I'm glad I'm top 8 right now." Laure Manaudou (FRA) was 8th in 2:12.04.

In the second semi Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) went out under World Record pace with a 1:01.97, but eased off in the final 50. She touched slower than her heat swim with a 2:07.76. Meagen Nay (AUS) went a PB of 2:08.09 for second and Margaret Hoelzer, the World Record holder, was third in 2:08.25.

Men's 200IM Final

While Ryan Lochte was off warming down from his gold medal win in the 200 back, images of Michael Phelps in the ready room sitting alone went up on the jumbotron, telling the tale of what was to come. Phelps was totally focused and prepared, and Lochte's double was just too difficult, with less than 25 minutes he was off his best from US Trials (also with the double) and Phelps was yet again, on his best. Winning gold number 6 in a new World Record, Phelps touched in 1:54.23. "I just wanted to step on it in the first 50 a little bit and try and get out to an early lead," said Phelps. "I knew that was a hard double for Ryan. I knew in the first half if I got a big enough lead, I thought I could hang on and that's all I wanted to do."

Holding on for silver was Laszlo Cseh (HUN) in 1:55.52 to Lochte's 1:56.53. "I'm kind of tired right now," said Lochte. "I haven't warmed down or done anything, so my lactate is pretty high. After a while you kinda forget about the pain after you win, and that's basically what happened; I forgot about it and got ready for my next race."

"It's not a shame to be beaten by a better one. It made me satisfied that I reached my best time and the hope is that maybe next time I can catch him," said Cseh. "I had placements and times in my heat beforehand that I didn’t mention to anyone. It was not in the plans to win 3 silvers, I thought in the IM I could win silver, but in the fly that was a surprise and it makes me feel pretty good."

Women's 100 Free Final

Lisbeth Trickett (AUS) is the World Record holder in this event. She almost missed the final after posting a 54.01 in the semi-finals and finishing 9th. Fortunately for her, top seed Jiaying Pang (CHN) false started and Trickett got lane 8. Swimming in clear water it looked like she would win. Not to be; finishing with amazing power was former World Record holder, Britta Steffen (GER) who saved the Germans, winning their first gold, in an Olympic Record time of 53.12 to Trickett's 53.16. Bronze went to Natalie Coughlin (USA) in the middle of the pool at 53.39.

"My coach told me to do my own race," said Steffen. "I knew the other girls would be out fast and I closed my eyes in order to not be distracted." After she touched she didn't look up at the board for several seconds. "I think that was the moment when I didn’t know what had happened on the other side of me. I had only Libby on the one side of me…then I turned around and everything was just great. I had good support from my mental coach and those who 'drowned' as you said, tried really hard. Sport is you win some and lose some and you learn something and hopefully it will make people stronger in the end."

"Britta is a wonderful person and a fantastic competitor," said Trickett who hugged Steffen after her win. "Full credit to her. She kept driving to the wall. I really tried to focus on my own race. I was hurting so I knew she would be too. I just wanted to get to the wall."

"I can't be happier," said Coughlin after winning her 10th Olympic medal. "I didn’t know what to expect coming in here medal-wise, but half-way through I heard I was approaching the record [of 12 set by Jenny Thompson]. I'm very excited. Jenny Thompson is an amazing swimmer and great friend."

Men's 100 Fly Semi-Finals

Walking straight from the podium to the pool for his race, Michael Phelps squashed any doubt that he can still win the 100 fly. His win of 50.97 puts him in lane 5 tomorrow night.  "The only thing I wanted to do was win my heat and get a center lane to hopefully set me up for something good tomorrow," said Phelps who has this and the 4x100 medley to go.  "I think the next 2 races are pretty important. Tomorrow morning's race is probably one of the most important races. One of the things Bob and I wanted is for me to get out a little faster than the last 2 100 flys I have done. For me to be a body length behind after the first 50 is not where I want to be. So I have to conserve as much physical and emotional energy as I can."

Winning the second semi was Milorad Cavic (SRB) who broke the Olympic Record in the heat, but was slightly slower this morning with his 50.92. It is still good for lane 4 tomorrow against Phelps. Also in the final are Jason Dunford (KEN) and Ryan Pini (PNG) in 51.33 and 51.62, making it a very international final.