2012 Olympic Swimming, Gymnastics: Day 1 Morning Update from London Games
While most of America slumbered, the first full day of Olympic competition got off to a wild and wonderful start.
And I do mean wild.
We begin where we almost always do, with Michael Phelps.
The swimming superstar is slated to swim against rival Ryan Lochte later today in the finals of the men's 400-meter individual medley.
But getting there sure wasn't easy.
Phelps finished in the eighth and final qualifying spot during morning prelims, just .07 seconds ahead of four-time Olympic medalist (and surprise non-qualifier) Laszlo Cseh.
Perhaps it doesn't quite count as an upset—seeing as Phelps made it through—but we're talking about the greatest swimming specimen of all time here. Blips like this aren't usually part of the equation.
Next we head to the gym, where falls, thrills and generous portions of hometown spirit led to a men's gymnastics shocker. Competing in the first of three qualification subdivisions, Great Britain finished a whopping two points ahead of defending world and Olympic champion China.
Both teams will likely qualify for the eight-team final—where the slate will be wiped clean—but even so, the mere thought of Britain beating China in anything gymnastics-related qualifies as a major surprise.
The Chinese were uncharacteristically sloppy, particularly on pommel horse. Their chances of holding off Japan in the team final look slimmer by the day. Britain, meanwhile, has all sorts of hometown mojo and feels more and more like a bona fide medal contender in the team all-around.
Favorites fell even harder in the men's 400-meter freestyle.
South Korean dynamo Park Tae-Hwan, the defending Olympic and world champ, was disqualified because of a false start. Another expected medal contender, Germany's Paul Biedermann, simply didn't swim fast enough to make tonight's final.
Only three finalists (and one medalist) from 2011 Worlds will swim for the podium in London.
Finally, on the brighter side of surprise, veteran Natalie Coughlin gave us a final glimpse of her greatness.
Racing in a 4x100-meter freestyle preliminary she almost didn't qualify for, Coughlin posted Team USA's fastest relay split and almost certainly assured herself of a spot in tonight's finals.
It'll likely be the last Olympic race in Coughlin's legendary career. Alongside her will be 17-year-old phenom Missy Franklin, swimming in her first.
Even with ceremonies complete and cauldron lit, the torch passing continues.
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