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World champ Hoshi settles for bronze in 200 butterfly

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

Natsumi Hoshi claimed a first swimming medal for Japan’s women at the Rio Olympics with bronze in the 200-meter butterfly on Wednesday night.

Hoshi made a strong finish to clock a time of 2 minutes, 5.20 seconds at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, but it was not enough to catch gold medalist Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain (2:04.85) or runnerup Madeline Groves of Australia (2:04.88).

“I don’t really feel any frustration, I’m just relieved to finish third,” said Hoshi, the reigning world champion in the event.

“I’ve been living in training camps overseas for a long time, thinking about nothing but the Olympics, and I had been waiting for this day to come. So I gave it everything I had. At the end I could hardly kick or lift my arms. I’m satisfied, really happy.”

Hoshi had watched compatriot Masato Sakai almost reel in Michael Phelps only to fall agonizingly short and take silver in the men’s 200 butterfly the previous night, but the 25-year-old was happy with the way she planned her race.

“I wanted to stick with the leaders from the start and then go for it at the end, but I could only see Belmonte beside me,” said Hoshi, who also won Olympic bronze in the 200 butterfly in London four years ago. “I thought I might be second or third when I touched the wall.

“I didn’t want to worry too much about the result. I just wanted to give everything I had and not put pressure on myself to win a gold or any other kind of medal.”

Yasuhiro Koseki was left empty-handed when his bid for the men’s 200 breaststroke title disintegrated over the final 50 meters of the race.

Koseki led comfortably for the first 150 meters but faded horribly down the home straight, eventually finishing fifth while Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Balandin took the gold medal — his country’s first — in a time of 2 minutes, 7.46 seconds.

“My body started to get heavy in the last 50 meters and I couldn’t move,” said Koseki, who clocked a time of 2:07.80. “That was the reason why I lost. I knew that everyone would start catching up with me.”

Josh Prenot of the United States (2:07.53) finished second, while Anton Chupkov of Russia (2:07.70) was third. Ippei Watanabe placed sixth in a time of 2:07.87.

Koseki qualified for the event after beating two-time Olympic breaststroke double champion Kosuke Kitajima at the national championships in April, ending Kitajima’s bid to appear at a fifth Olympics.

Kitajima promptly brought the curtain down on his illustrious career at the age of 33, with many blaming Koseki for sending one of Japan’s best-loved Olympians into retirement.

“Kitajima retired in April, and from that point on a lot of people started saying bad things about me,” said Koseki. “That was tough. I wanted to win an Olympic gold medal to shut them up, and it’s disappointing that I wasn’t able to do that.”

Elsewhere in the Olympic pool, Kyle Chalmers of Australia captured the men’s 100 freestyle title, beating Pieter Timmers (47.80) of Belgium and Nathan Adrian (47.85) of the U.S. in a time of 47:58.

Ledecky bags third gold

Rio de Janeiro AP

Katie Ledecky was the fastest swimmer in the pool, and she brought her American teammates along for the ride.

The 19-year-old turned in another overpowering performance to carry the United States to victory in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, capturing her third gold and fourth medal overall at the Rio Olympics.

The U.S. trailed through the first three legs of the race, as Sweden, China and then Australia swapped the top spot.

Then, it was Ledecky’s turn on the anchor leg.

She blew everyone away.

Ledecky turned in a split of 1 minute, 53.74 seconds, which was nearly 2.5 seconds faster than her next-fastest teammate, Allison Schmitt in 1:56.21.

Only one other swimmer in the race, Australia’s Emma McKeon, got within a second of Ledecky’s four-lap time.

“I was prepared for any circumstance, whether we were ahead or behind,” Ledecky said.

The U.S. finished in 7 minutes, 43.03 seconds, with Ledecky a full body length ahead of Tamsin Cook, who touched in 7:44.87 to give Australia the silver. Canada took the bronze in 7:45.39.