Golden Again: Michael Phelps Wins 200m IM For Medal No. 20

Highlighted by Michael Phelps' win over Ryan Lochte in the 200m IM, and Rebecca Soni's world record in the 200m breaststroke, Team USA added to its medal haul in the pool on Thursday.

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2012 Olympics, Men's 200 IM Results: Michael Phelps Outduels Ryan Lochte

Thursday was, once again, Michael Phelps' day. The showdown with Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM never really materialized, with Phelps racing out to a comfortable lead early and Lochte battling back to take silver. While the times may seem somewhat close, it was never really a race. So let's examine it.

This seems important. Look at the splits and you'll see where the race was decided:

Phelps' splits: 24.63, 28.63, 33.33, 27.68
Lochte's splits: 24.79, 29.10, 33.48, 27.53

From first to last, the splits are for the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle legs. Phelps opened with a slight lead after the fly and just destroyed Lochte in the back. And remember, Lochte is, in theory, the better backstroker -- though both are solid in the 200m back.

With a lead of a little over six-tenths of a second, it was all over for Lochte. The difference between their breaststroke legs is typically negligible -- though Phelps padded his lead -- and the same goes for the freestyle leg. Phelps did his work at the beginning of the race, "winning" the first three legs, and just had to hang on over the final 50 meters.

It's important to note that Lochte and Phelps swam programs that were essentially the opposite on Thursday. Lochte had to go out and swim a final -- in the 200 back -- before the 200 IM while Phelps battled Lochte first before swimming in the 100 fly. Both had grueling days, but Phelps was certainly more fresh for the 200 IM.

And does it matter? Because about 40 minutes after hopping out of the pool as the gold medalist in the 200 IM, Phelps went out and just missed setting an Olympic record in the 100 fly. He's very, very good at swimming these grueling programs.

While Lochte is superb in his own right, there's another level Phelps sits on. It's probably not fair to Lochte, who would be the story under any other circumstances, but men's swimming is still Phelps' playground. And Thursday was just another example.

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2012 Olympics, 200 Backstroke Results: Tyler Clary Wins 1st Gold, Ryan Lochte Fades To Bronze

The men's 200-meter backstroke was Ryan Lochte's undercard on the day, with Tyler Clary seemingly posing less of a threat to Lochte than Michael Phelps did in the 200 IM. But while Lochte led throughout the race, it was Clary who surged at the end to snag his first gold medal and set a Olympic record.

Lochte was first after 150 meters, and led after both 50 meters and 100 meters, too. His third leg, though, was merely very good, at 29.18, and Clary made up time toward the end of it. Clary then took the lead early on in the final leg, and closed with a blistering 28.48, setting a new Olympic mark at 1:53.41. Ryosuke Irie of Japan won silver, and Lochte took bronze.

For Clary, the win represents something of a breakthrough. His Twitter bio shows as much ("Two Time World Championship Silver and Bronze Medalist. Triple Silver Medalist at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships"). But he's got something shinier now:

And, no, it doesn't seem that the 22-year-old Clary will be satisfied with one gold medal. "I'm on Cloud 9 right now and I want more of this," Clary said.

Lochte, on the other hand, has to deal with the fact that he let another gold slip away with a late fade. He also ran out of gas in the men's 4x200 freestyle relay, getting hawked down by France's Yannick Agnel.

Lochte's bronze-winning time of 1:53.94 wasn't a career best, either. And it wasn't even really all that close -- Lochte has previously held the world record in the event, and smoked the field at the 2011 IAAF World Championships with a time of 1:52.96, beating Irie by more than a second and Clary by nearly two.

The bronze tied Lochte with fellow U.S. swimmer Allison Schmitt for the most medals by an Olympian in London, but he couldn't dwell on it, either. His next race, that 200 IM showdown with Phelps, was little more than a half-hour later, and would serve as his second shot at Phelps and last shot at a medal of 2012.

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Michael Phelps Beats Ryan Lochte For Gold In Men's 200m IM Final

Michael Phelps swam one last great race, beating Ryan Lochte for his 20th Olympic medal in the 200 IM.

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Rebecca Soni Wins Gold For U.S., Sets Another World Record In Women's 200m Breaststroke Final

Rebecca Soni set another world record and won gold in the women's 200-meter breaststroke on Thursday.

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