The first individual swimming world record came on the first rainy morning over Tokyo Bay. The typhoon hit and came South African Tatjana Schoenmaker, a late-appearing swimmer who did not qualify for the Rio Games but in Japan won gold in the 200-meter breaststroke with the first time ever under 2 minutes 19 seconds. Schoenmaker covered the distance in 2m 18.95s and knew he had won because out of the corner of his left eye he controlled King and out of the corner of his right eye he controlled Lazor. Exhausted, she leaned her head against the wall of the pool and as she turned and saw the illuminated mark she experienced a form of nervous reaction accompanied by shaking, crying and moaning. Fraternally moved by the scandal, rivals and aquatic friends came to console her, forming a round of nymphs that will go down in history as one of the most sentimental moments of this strange pandemic party.
The 200 breaststroke record was one of the oldest stumbling blocks in the women’s quadrant. The Danish Rikke Moller Pedersen had pulverized it, cutting four tenths off the Russian Yulia Efimova, during the duel they both had at the 2013 World Cups. Since then, an army of selfless girls in latex caps had strived to swim faster the distance more uncomfortable, more unnatural, and that more joint pain produces. It took a lot of faith, a lot of devotion, and a lot of spirit of sacrifice to undertake the mission. Schoenmaker acted as the chosen one.
Before the final, he raised a last public prayer through Instagram: “God the father, may your will be done, may your peace fill us, may we praise you regardless of the result. All the glory to God ”.
If the God of the Christians, or Neptune himself, pulled the chariot of this skinny and devout Amphitrite, he drove it with force and punctuality. At the right time mathematically. As almost always, the knot in the script of one of the most tactical tests that exists, was unleashed in the last feature. When the American Lilly King exhausted her sweeping start, and when Annie Lazor, the other American, undertook her calculated final energy discharge and swam the last 25 meters faster than anyone. Schoenmaker’s equation was correct. His strokes, numerically arranged in exact, divine succession, squared the circle.
Two and a half decades had passed since a South African swimmer won an Olympic gold. The predecessor, Penelope Heyns, was a 100 and 200 breaststroke champion at the Atlanta Games.
With a cross hanging from each lobe, the suffering 24-year-old Schoenmaker wept dejectedly. Decomposed as if a tragedy had been communicated to her. So vulnerable in the eyes of the world, that upon seeing her, Lilly King came to comfort her. Joining the group, Annie Lazor hugged her, and so did Kaylene Corbett, the other South African, who is her training partner and her friend, and who despite not having won anything laughed as if she knew that the rival was not the others but the invincible, indecipherable, indefinable time, but, unfortunately, real.
Rylov, Garcia, McKeon and Shun
“It was an incredible race,” Lazor said. “That world record has been out there resisting too much. So seeing someone finally drop below 2.19 minutes, something we’ve all been working for, and seeing someone like her get it, such a magnificent person … Just being there and experiencing something like that with someone is something that we will never forget”.
It was a strange morning at the Aquatic Center. After six Games, a non-team swimmer climbed to the top of the 200-meter backstroke podium. Russian Evgeny Rylov listened with emotion to Tchaikovsky’s number one piano concerto, the official anthem of his federation after the sentence the IOC imposed on Russia after discovering that its agents manipulated anti-doping tests.
There was no better backpacker than the fine Rylov at these Games. The 100 champion was also the most effective in 200. He completed all four lengths in 1m 53.27s and set a new Olympic record. American Ryan Murphy was silver and Briton Luke Greenbank was bronze. Last, but with honor, came the Spaniard Nicolás García, who at 19 years old had the pleasure of swimming in an Olympic final. Since his start was mediocre by his standards, his best time did not improve either. He did 1m 59.06s, eighth.
All quiet on the Australian front, Emma McKeon won gold in the 100 freestyle with a time of 51.96s. A good mark, far removed, however, from Sarah Sjostrom’s world record of 51.71s. McKeon was joined in the box by Siobhan Haughey, the Hong Kong prodigy, and his countrywoman Cate Campbell.
In the desert left behind by Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, a mythical test was shown: the 200 meters of combined styles. With the American Michael Andrew sunk in the last set, the length of the free swim, and the Japanese master Daiya Seto lost to the cause, the Tokyo final was settled between the British Duncan Scott, crawl magician, and the Chinese Wang Shun, who every year he adds more muscle volume to his majestic body. The power served him to maintain the advantage acquired and finish the last 50 with a very graceful stroke cadence. His gold in a time of 1m 55.00s was the first that China obtained in the Olympic history of the 200 styles. Scott was silver for 28 hundredths and the Swiss Jeremy Desplanches took the bronze.
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