Aaron Stern, NBC Olympics
Five takeaways you should know from Day 3 of Olympic action in London.
No. 1: American swimming needed a morale boost Monday night – and they got a healthy dose of it. After Ryan Lochte won in dramatic fashion over Michael Phelps in the 400m IM on Day 1, the U.S. was was deflated in a silver performance in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay on Day 2. Lochte kicked off Monday night with a fading performance of his own that landed him off the medal podium in the 200m freestyle, and all of a sudden the vibe around U.S. swimming had gone from electric to sputtering in 48 hours.
That’s when Missy Franklin showed up. The bubbly 17-year-old newcomer hopped in the pool just 14 minutes after swimming a semifinal heat and promptly rallied to win the 100m backstroke. It was the first gold of what seems certain to be a long and distinguished career for the young phenom. Matt Grevers took the momentum Franklin created and ran with it, taking gold in the men’s 100m backstroke; to top it off, first-time Olympian and fellow American Nick Thoman turned in a surprising performance to win silver in that race. Just like that: confidence restored.
No. 2: After a dominant performance in the team qualifying round two days ago, the American men’s gymnastics had high expectations in the finals on Monday – and promptly fell to pieces. They were sloppy across the board and finished fifth. Danell Leyva and John Orozco still have strong chances to challenge Japan’s legendary Kohei Uchimura in the individual all-around but it will take the men some time to wash the bitter taste of today’s collapse out of their mouths regardless of what happens the rest of the way.
No. 3: Controversy led to a dramatic standoff in the fencing arena when South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam, convinced she’d been robbed by judges of a trip to the gold medal match in women’s individual epee, refused to leave the piste for over an hour.
With :01 left in sudden-death overtime Shin held a a tie-breaking advantage because she had scored the last point in regulation to force the extra session with Germany’s Britta Heidemann, the reigning Olympic champion. Three times fighting commenced with :01 on the clock and each time the two women lunged at each other and scored simultaneous touches. On the fourth start Heidemann lunged at Shin and scored the decisive point. The South Korean coach pleaded with officials that the match should have ended during the three restarts; the judges deliberated for 25 minutes before awarding the match to Heidemann.
That’s when it got weird: Fencing rules dictate that if Shin were to leave the piste it would be seen as a sign of accepting the judges’ decision, so instead she sat in protest for nearly 70 minutes on the edge of the fighting platform. Eventually she was escorted away in tears as the crowd booed the judges. Shin went on to lose the bronze-medal match to No. 1 seed Yujie Sun of China; Heidemann lost in the gold-medal match to Ukraine’s Yana Shemyakina.
No. 4: China extended its diving dominance when Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan executed near-perfect dives in almost every round of today’s competition, giving China its second diving gold in as many days. Americans are back on the diving map too: David Boudia and Nick McCrory took bronze a day after Abby Johnston and Kelci Bryant won silver in the 3m synchronized springboard, the first American diving medals since the 2000 Olympics.
No. 5: And finally, your gold and total medal counts in the race between the U.S. and China: After three days China has won nine gold medals and 17 total medals; the U.S. has five golds and 17 overall.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.