Swimmers Irie, Suzuki add silver to Japan’s medal count

Kyodo

Japan’s Ryosuke Irie edged long-time rival Ryan Lochte but settled for the silver medal in the men’s 200-meter backstroke final Thursday at the London Olympics.

Compatriot Satomi Suzuki also earned silver, finishing a distant second in the women’s 200-meter breaststroke, on a day when Michael Phelps became the first male swimmer in Olympic history to win the same individual event for the third time in a row.

Irie overtook Lochte near the wall but was unable to catch Lochte’s U.S. teammate Tyler Clary, who set an Olympic record of 1 minute, 53.41 seconds.

Irie clocked 1:53.78, 0.16 ahead of Lochte. Kazuki Watanabe, the other Japanese in the final, was sixth in 1:57.03.

“I swam the last 50 meters very well, and it would have been best if I could see ’1′ next to my name on the board,” Irie said. “I’m disappointed. But I gave it my all, so I’d like to accept this result for now and try again to be world No. 1 in this event.”

Irie was also in second place at the world championships in 2009 and 2011.

In the women’s 200 breaststroke, Rebecca Soni broke the world record she set in the previous day’s semifinals with a time of 2:19.59 in winning the event for the second consecutive Olympics.

Suzuki was more than a full second behind Soni but turned in a Japanese record-tying 2:20.72.

“I’m thrilled I went one better than my (bronze) medal in the 100 meters,” Suzuki said. “I swam so hard in the last 50. I want to congratulate myself for tying the national record set during the high-tech swimsuit period” by Rie Kaneto in September 2009.

Irie and Suzuki each picked up their second medals of the London Games after both claiming bronze in the 100 on Monday.

Meanwhile, Phelps finally won his first individual gold in the British capital, powering home in 1:54.27 in the 200 individual medley.

Lochte finished second in 1:54.90, following the third-place finish in the 200 back. Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh placed third in 1:56.22.

Japan’s Kosuke Hagino and Ken Takakuwa were fifth (1:57.35) and sixth (1:58.53), respectively.

Earlier in the swimming program, two-time double Olympic breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima was going for a three-peat, along with Phelps.

But Kitajima finished out of the medals, coming in fifth in the 100 and fourth in the 200.

Japan raised its swimming medal count to a total of nine — two silvers and seven bronzes.