Olympics / Summer Olympics / Swimming

Kaneto victorious in 200-meter breaststroke; Phelps beats Hagino for 22nd gold

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

Rie Kaneto won gold in the women’s 200-meter breaststroke but failed in her mission to break the world record at the Rio Olympics on Thursday night.

Kosuke Hagino, meanwhile, took silver behind the imperious Michael Phelps in the men’s 200 individual medley to add to the 400 IM gold and 4×200 relay bronze he won earlier in the week.

Kaneto touched the wall in 2 minutes, 20.30 seconds ahead of Russia’s Yulia Efimova and Shi Jinglin of China, but fell short of Rikke Moller Pederson’s world-record time of 2:19.11 by 1.19 seconds.

“I couldn’t execute my ideal race strategy tonight and I wasn’t happy with my time,” said Kaneto, who went within 0.54 seconds of the record at April’s national championship and subsequently stated her desire to break it in Rio.

“I achieved my minimum target and that’s something to celebrate. When I touched the wall I was happy but also frustrated that my time wasn’t good. It was a feeling that even I didn’t understand, but I’m happy that I could win this for the team regardless of my time.”

Kaneto finished 1.67 seconds ahead of Efimova, who has proved to be a lightning rod for criticism in the Olympic pool this week having been cleared to compete despite twice failing doping tests.

Efimova was again loudly booed by the crowd as she stepped out to compete, but Kaneto bore no ill-will toward her controversial opponent.

“If I had lost today, people would have said that I would have won if certain competitors hadn’t been in the race,” said Kaneto. “But all the competitors were here.

“I know that Yulia had a doping issue in the past. But the fact that she’s here indicates that she’s clean now. Both of us were able to be true to ourselves and race together.”

Hagino went into the 200 IM looking to knock Phelps off his perch after the American claimed three golds in three races earlier in the week.

But Phelps disappeared into the distance straight from the word go to finish the race in a time of 1 minute, 54.66 seconds, leaving Hagino to battle through the field with a late surge to claim silver in 1:56.61. China’s Wang Shun took bronze in 1:57.05, ahead of Hiromasa Fujimori in 1:57.21.

“I just didn’t have the power to compete,” said Hagino, looking unlike his usual happy-go-lucky self for the first time this week in Rio.

“I didn’t have the muscle power or the mental power. My speed wasn’t there, although it was a little better than yesterday. I just wasn’t good enough. I came here having done the best training I could, and it’s frustrating that it didn’t pay off. I couldn’t overcome my weaknesses and that was the biggest reason I didn’t win.”

Phelps claimed his 13th individual Olympic gold medal and his 22nd overall, but the 31-year-old was at pains to stress that it was not as easy as it looked.

“That hurt a lot,” said Phelps. “I think the biggest thing for me through the meet so far is that I’ve been able to finish how I wanted. I’ve been able to come back and accomplish things that I just dreamed of. To be able to have the opportunity to come back and win my fourth 200 IM in a row — I don’t even know how to put that into words. This has been a very, very special week so far for me closing out my career.”

Ryan Murphy won the men’s 200 backstroke final in a time of 1 minute, 53.62 seconds, ahead of Mitchell Larkin of Australia (1:53.96) and Evgeny Rylov of Russia (1:53.97).

Ryosuke Irie, who won bronze in the 100 backstroke in London four years ago, finished eighth in a time of 1:56.36.

“There was a time when I wished I had quit after London,” said the 26-year-old. “I’ve never experienced an Olympics as difficult as this. I had planned to quit after London, and although I had some good results, they started dropping off.

“My times in April weren’t bad, but after that I couldn’t raise them higher and my body was feeling heavy. I didn’t know what to do, but a lot of people gave me advice and I’m grateful to them that I could compete in my last individual race.”

In the night’s other final, Simone Manuel of the U.S. became the first black American woman to win an individual Olympic swimming medal when she shared gold with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak in an identical time of 52.7 seconds in the 100 freestyle final.

Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden took bronze in a time of 52.99.