LONDON – Tyler Clary can now wear something other than the title of Michael Phelps's biggest critic: his own gold medal.
Clary pulled a surprise in the 200-meter backstroke, unseating defending gold medalist Ryan Lochte for the top podium spot, and taking Lochte's Olympic record to boot. Clary started back in the pack but came out of the final turn in second place, tracking down Lochte and holding off Japan's Ryosuke Irie in the final 25 meters to finish with an Olympic best 1:53.41. Irie came in second, while Lochte nabbed bronze – his 10th Olympic medal.
Lochte's slip may have been a sign that he was reserving energy for Thursday's double swim, which had him scheduled to go in the 200 backstroke final and the 200 individual medley final only 31 minutes apart. After the swim, Lochte was immediately pulled from the pool and sent to begin his warm down for the 200 IM in the nearby diving pool, where he and Phelps would face off for the second time in these Games.
The gold delivered a moment of peace for Clary, who came into these Games under a cloud of controversy for criticizing Phelps’s work ethic in a newspaper interview. That prompted a personal apology to Phelps, as well as one to the entire U.S. men's swimming team. Clary was further humbled in the 200-meter butterfly, where he finished fifth – three spots behind Phelps. Now Clary has his first Olympic medal, his first gold, and his first Olympic record.
It’s the second straight Olympics that has seen Americans take two of the three podium spots, with Lochte and Aaron Peirsol going gold and silver in Beijing in 2008. It’s also been six straight Olympics with an American winning gold in the event, dating back to 1992 in the Barcelona Games.
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