Eight days and 98 medals later, the swimming championship at the Olympics – largely considered to be the most watchable and exciting part of any racing sport – concluded with the Men’s 4x100m medley relay. Not surprisingly, the US swim team capped off their Olympics with another gold medal, with Michael Phelps swimming his last competitive race and ending in fairytale style, winning his 24th gold medal of a stunning career. The marathon open-water swims are yet to take place, but it’s safe to say that the Americans, who have dominated swimming meets for decades now, enjoyed one of their best Olympic performances in recent history.
Let’s take a look at some numbers:
33 – number of swimming medals won by USA at Rio, two more than the 31 won at London 2012.
16 – number of golds won by USA, out of a total of 33 golds available, equaling their 16 golds in London.
3 – Number of golds won by second-placed Australia in the pool.
5 – Number of golds won by USA’s Michael Phelps alone, along with one silver medal, one more than his 2012 tally.
4 – Number of golds won by Katie Ledecky, along with one silver medal.
4 – Number of world records set by the US swimmers.
3 – Number of golds won by Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, the only three golds won by Hungary so far.
MOMENTS OF THE MEET:
Singapore’s Joseph Schooling won his country’s first-ever gold medal in the 100m butterfly final, setting an Olympic record by defeating the trio of Phelps, Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh. Before the race, a photograph surfaced of Schooling as a schoolboy, meeting his hero Phelps back in 2008 when the American legend toured Singapore with his team. The best part of this race, though, is how the [‘senior 3‘ finished in a dead heat for a silver medal.
Madeline Dirado whooped with joy, unable to believe her own achievement as she pipped overwhelming favorite Hosszu for gold in the 200m backstroke final – denying the Hungarian her fourth straight gold, despite being a length behind Hosszu right till the final 20m. In a moment of genius, Dirado finished by sliding underwater and getting the touch 0.06 second before Hosszu, winning her first individual gold medal of her career.
Katie Ledecky‘s final individual gold of the games was the year’s most stunning swim – shattering the 800m freestyle world record (her own), and winning by almost 12 seconds before second-placed Jazmin Carlin touched home. None would bet against 19-year Ledecky to do a sub-8 minute 800m freestyle swim within the next few years.
35-year-old Anthony Ervin, who won the 50m freestyle joint-gold way back in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, has been to hell and back, coming out of a suicide attempt, depression, retirement and instability to win the gold medal 16 years apart in the same event. He defeated French favorite Florent Manaudou by a hundredth of a second, completing an unlikely fairytale story that even inspired the likes of Ledecky and third-placed Nathan Adrian.
USA’s Simone Manuel pulled off one of the most heartwarming moments of the games when she tied with Canada’s teenager Penny Oleksaik to win the 100m freestyle gold, defeating Swedish favorite Sarah Sjostrom and Australia’s Campbell sisters.
Australia’s Mack Horton began the edition by defeating China’s Sun Yang in the 400m freestyle final, refusing to shake his hand or acknowledge him, after making his stance on Yang’s ‘doping ban history’ very clear.
USA’s Lilly King made it equally acrimonious after winning the 100m backstroke final ahead of Russia’s Yulia Efimova – who was cleared to swim only days before the Olympics began despite her doping ban. The American teenager didn’t hold back at all, winning the gold and refusing to even acknowledge the Russian on the podium.
Australia’s 18-year-old schoolboy Kyle Chalmers won hearts all over the world by winning the 100m freestyle race after being 7th at the turn, defeating favorites Nathan Adrian and Cameron McEvoy in one of the fastest swims of the year.