By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Tuesday, August 9, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO – Tonight’s Olympic swimming finals will feature both the biggest legend in the sport and a legend in-the-making.Michael Phelps will be making his fifth appearance in the finals of the men’s 200m butterfly, and Katie Ledecky will be swimming in the women’s 200m freestyle.
The 200m butterfly is where it all began for Phelps in Sydney 16 years ago, when he finished fifth in his first Olympic finals at the age of 15.
Back then, he was one of just a handful of American swimmers on that Olympic team who did not medal. Five Games later, he’s the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, with 23 medals overall – 19 gold, 2 silver and two bronze, his most recent gold coming in the men’s 400m freestyle relay on the second night of competition.
Phelps has won the 200m butterfly twice in Olympic competition, in 2004 and 2008. In London 2012, he finished second to Chad le Clos of South Africa, who will also be swimming in tonight’s finals.
Phelps holds the world record in this event at 1:51.51, and was the fastest swimmer in the world last year.
Ledecky comes into tonight’s finals of the women’s 200m freestyle as the reigning world champion and the second seed.
She has already won two medals this week, a silver in the women’s 400m freestyle relay on the first night of competition, and a gold in the 400m free. She set an Olympic record in prelims of the 400, then went on to shatter her own world record in the finals by nearly two seconds.
The 200m free is a relatively new addition to Ledecky’s international program. She’s only swum it twice as an individual event at major international competitions, winning gold at both the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships and at the 2015 World Championships. She has won gold as a member of the United States 800m free relay at every major international competition since the 2013 World Championships.
The last time the U.S. won the Olympic 200m free was 2012, when Allison Schmitt set the American record of 1:53.61 in London.
Here’s a quick look at tonight’s other finals:Women’s 200m IM
1. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, GBR, 2:07.57
2. Katinka Hosszu, HUN, 2:08.13
3. Maya DiRado, USA, 2:08.91
5 Melanie Margalis, USA, 2:10.10
Maya DiRado will be looking to add to her medal haul here in Rio, which started with a silver in the 400m IM on the first night of competition. In that race, she missed the American record by three-hundredths of a second.
DiRado is competing in her first and last Olympic Games. After Rio, she and her husband plan to move to Atlanta, where she will begin her career as a business consultant. She qualified for three events in Rio – the 400m IM, 200m IM and 200m back.
Margalis is also a rookie who will be competing in her first Olympic finals tonight. She has seen most of her success on the international stage at the World University Games, where she won gold in the 800m free relay and bronze in the 200m IM in 2013. She placed 12th in the 400m IM and ninth in the 200m IM at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, and at the 2015 World Championships, she was seventh in the 200m IM. Margalis will also be competing in the women’s 800m free relay tomorrow.
The last American woman to win Olympic gold in the 200m IM was Tracy Caulkins in 1984. Caitlin Leverenz was the last American to win a medal in this event – a bronze – in 2012.
Men’s 800m Free Relay
1. Great Britain, 7:06.31
2. USA (Clark Smith, Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz, Ryan Lochte), 7:06.74
3. Russia, 7:06.81
The United States has won 16 of the 24 gold medals in the 800m free relay since it became an Olympic event in 1908, and has medaled every time it competed. The Americans have won gold in this event at the last three Olympic Games and are the current world and Olympic record-holders. The line-up for tonight’s finals will be released an hour before competition.
Think you have what it takes to become an Olympic legend like Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky? Join USA Swimming. Find a team in your area at SwimToday.org.