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Clary & Irie Deliver Bronze To Lochte

Aug 2, 2012

Olympic Games, London, Day 6 finals:

Men's 200m backstroke:

The question will be asked for many years to come: was it too much, even for Ryan Lochte to take on two gold-medal strokes in the same session a half an hour apart?

We will never know the answer but the new champion is his teammate Tyler Clary, who ran Lochte down in the last 20m of the race and past the defending champion to take gold in 1:53.41.

Ryosuke Irie (JPN) also got to the world champion, his 1:53.78 clipping the American by 0.16sec, Lochte left with bronze in 1:53.94. 

Lochte got to the first turn first in 27.14, Clary on 27.37. By the half-way, Lochte led in 55.63, 0.22sec up on Clary, Irie a hand away. Lochte maintained pace down the third lap and appeared to be in control as he turned in 1:24.81, though Clary was now 0.12sec away, Irie still in contention. 

It is at such moments that Lochte brings in his amazing Lochte dolphin kick off the wall. Whether it was as good as usual was hard to tell at a glance but what was certain is that Clary and Irie burst into their strokes as well as Lochte did, no discernible advantage gained from the drive off the wall. 

Clary sensed something was up. His stroke flowed, the work in him leapt to his aid as Irie too felt that his time had come. Lochte held on as long as he could but could not withstand the assault he suffered in the closing 5 metres - from his rivals and from the pain clearly coursing through him. 

Lochte looked dejected, the 200m medley with Michael Phelps ahead of him, while Clary held an index finger aloft and said a prayer to the god of aquatic glory as he looked heavenward, his dream delivered.

"I stuck to my guns and I was able to come by in those last few 15 metres and get my hand on the wall," he said. "That was the perfect race I swam...it couldn't have gone any better," he said. "You always have big dreams in your head. You hope that you might pull off something like that."

"It has not even processed in my mind yet," Clary continued. " The fact that I am now the Olympic champion and record holder is something that is very humbling."

Later on he tweeted: "All I could think about after I saw that result was my high school coach Kevin Perry who passed away during my freshman year of college." He told reporters: "He was my coach through high school, and he is the influence that got me to where I am today. I mean, he's definitely looking down at me right now and smiling and I'm just happy to make him proud."

At the close of battle, Clary looked up, saw the result, sent both arms and a plume of water high into the air and released the pressure that had been plaguing him since he criticised Michael Phelps' apparent lack of commitment to training.

Clary returns to Ann Arbor after the Games to complete work on his degree and compete for Club Wolverine as a champion not as a man living in the shadow of Phelps and Lochte, not as a swimmer who "never quite got there" and had to watch Phelps finish fourth in a 400IM in which he would probably have been the closest man to Lochte's gold. 

Said Clary: "It's complete redemption. The fact that the trials didn't go the way I wanted, and to kind of have everything that's been going on leading up to this, and then still being able to come out successful is, is a testament to ... to me more than anything that I can handle anything that gets thrown at me. And I'm really looking forward to Rio, especially now."

Clary had several scenarios in mind for the biggest race of his life. "I had a couple of different ways the way I had kind of foreseen the race playing out with regards to everybody else in the game," he told reporters. "That was the perfect race I could have swum tonight. There was nothing I could have done better. I'm ecstatic."

An All-America at the University of Michigan, Clary left after his junior year (the 2009-10 season) for Fullerton, Calif., and a programme led by Jon Urbanchek, a coach whose retirement will prompt change for Clary too. Clary will finish his degree in computer science in Ann Arbor and race the Grand Prix circuit with Mike Bottom's Club Wolverine.

London 2012:

  • 1. Tyler Clary (USA) 1:53.41
  • 2. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 1:53.78
  • 3. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:53.94

Beijing 2008:

  • 1. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:53.94 wr
  • 2. Aaron Peirsol (USA) 1:54.33
  • 3. Arkady Vyatchanin (RUS) 1:54.93er

Fastest field ever: Beijing: 1:53.94 - 1:57.00

Comparison fields: 

  • London 2012: 1:53.41 - 1:58.02
  • Shanghai 2011: 1:52.96 - 1:57.82
  • Beijing 2008: 1:53.94 - 1:57.00
  • Melbourne 2007: 1:54.32 - 1:59.41
  • Athens 2004: 1:54.95 - 2:00.06

To qualify for the final it took: 

  • 1:57.33 London 2012
  • 1:58.00 Shanghai 2011
  • 1:56.85 Beijing 2008