LONDON — American teenager Missy Franklin set a world record in the 200-meter backstroke Friday for her third gold and fourth medal overall at the London Olympics.
Franklin clocked 2 minutes, 4.06 seconds, 0.75 quicker than the mark set by Kirsty Coventry, of Zimbabwe, at the 2009 world championships in Rome in a now-banned bodysuit.
It was the seventh world record of the games.
“I can’t believe what just happened,” said Franklin, who had dedicated her Olympics to victims of the theater shooting not far from her Colorado home. “In that last 25, I knew I was giving it everything I had because I couldn’t feel my arms and legs and I was just trying to get my hand to the wall as fast I could.”
Anastasia Zueva, of Russia, touched in 2:05.92 to take the silver medal and Elizabeth Beisel, of the United States, finished in 2:06.55 to take bronze.
Fifteen-year-old Katie Ledecky – the youngest member of the U.S. team – nearly broke the world record to win gold in the 800 freestyle, denying Britain’s Rebecca Adlington a repeat before her home fans. Adlington settled for bronze in a race Ledecky dominated from start to finish, falling off record pace only in the last 15 meters.
France won its fourth gold at the pool, its best showing ever, as Florent Manaudou – younger brother of 2004 gold medalist Laure Manaudou – shocked defending Olympic champion and world-record holder Cesar Cielo, of Brazil, in the 50 freestyle.
Manaudou touched in 21.34 and pounded the water out in Lane 7, then got a big hug from his sister as soon as he climbed from the pool. Cullen Jones, of the United States, took silver in 21.54, while Cielo was left with bronze in 21.59. Anthony Ervin, the 2000 Olympic champion who came back from an eight-year retirement, finished fifth after getting off to a poor start.
“I’m tired,” said Cielo, still only 25 but the world’s top sprinter for the past four years. “Age takes its effect.”
Franklin and Ledecky are just getting started.
“Missy The Missile” has certainly lived up to her nickname, completing a sweep of the backstroke events.
“I could never dream for it to happen like that,” said Franklin, who also has a bronze in her first Olympics and one more race to go in the 4x100 medley relay.
Ledecky seemingly came out of nowhere to claim a spot on the U.S. team, and she nearly took out a world record in her first Olympics. She was ahead of Adlington’s record pace (8:14.10) from the Beijing Olympics until right at the end, finally tiring just a bit for a time of 8:14.63.
Not to worry. The teenager still has plenty of time to go faster. Mireia Belmonte Garcia, of Spain, was far behind for silver in 8:18.76, while Adlington held on to take bronze at 8:20.32. She burst into tears on the medal stand as the crowd of 17,000 chanted “Becky! Becky! Becky!”
There was no catching Ledecky.
“I really wanted to see what I could do to represent the U.S,” she said.
Ledecky settled for crushing a hallowed American record, Janet Evans’ mark of 8:16.22 set in Tokyo on Aug. 20, 1989 – nearly eight years before Ledecky was born.
“I figured I was going pretty fast,” the teenager said.
Manaudou showed that his big sister wasn’t the only champion swimmer in the family, denying the Americans a sweep of the night’s events.
Jones did manage to take the first individual medal of his career, and vowed to come back even stronger at the 2016 Rio Games.
“I was dreaming in gold and I really wanted to get first, but it wasn’t in the cards this time,” he said. “I’ll have to live with silver, and that’s enough motivation for another four years.”
Ervin seemed flustered by a slight delay in the start because of a woman yelling in the stands. He was slowest off the blocks <0x2014> a crucial miscue in the one-lap dash - and never caught up. He was timed in 21.78, leaving him 0.19 behind Cielo for a spot on the podium.
Still, it’s been quite a journey for the eclectic swimmer, who shared the 50 free title with Gary Hall Jr. at the Sydney Olympics, won a world title the following year, then stunningly walked away from the sport at age 22. Ervin was gone for eight years, selling off his gold medal to aid victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, playing in a band, finishing college and never staying in one place for too long.
Just one year after coming back, the 31-year-old nearly got another Olympic medal.
“Being here is my own form of redemption,” he said. “What’s next? I’m going to have a nice dinner with my friends and family, people I really care about. Without them, this could not have happened.”