Fiona Doyle’s Olympic Games came to a frustrating conclusion last night when a second-place finish in her heat of the 200m breaststroke wasn’t enough to see her qualify.
Doyle led the race for 150m but tied up in the last 50m to touch in 2:29.76. Argentina’s Julia Sebastian won the heat in 2:27.98.
After four heats, the 24-year-old Limerick swimmer placed 25th overall. She would have needed to break her Irish record of 2:27.63 by over a second to make the semi-finals (2:26.58).
“I’m pretty disappointed by it,” an emotional Doyle told RTÉ last night. “I’m fitter, stronger, leaner than ever before. I really don’t know what happened.”
Doyle missed out on qualification for her favoured 100m breaststroke earlier in the week, finishing 20th, and admitted at the time that her performance in that event had left her “devastated”.
“In the last day-and-a-half I had picked up. I genuinely thought I would do a lot better (in the 200m breaststroke) than that. It’s very disappointing.”
Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen was the fastest qualifier in 2:22.72.
Today, Shane Ryan returns to the pool for the final Irish swimming entry of Rio 2016.
Ryan, who made the 100m backstroke semi-final earlier this week, will compete in the 50m freestyle preliminaries.
Meanwhile, Ryan Lochte of the US qualified fastest yesterday for the semi-finals of the 200m individual medley, two places ahead of career-long team-mate and rival Michael Phelps.
Lochte clocked 1:57.38 in the afternoon heats, with Philip Heintz of Germany second in 1:57.59 and Phelps third in 1:58.41.
In the same event at London in 2012, Phelps took the gold medal and Lochte won silver.
Phelps was swimming the morning after winning the 20th and 21st gold medals of his career in the 200m butterfly and 4x200m freestyle relay, in which Lochte won his sixth gold.
“Definitely fatigued a little bit,” said Phelps, adding that he got about five hours sleep. “My body hurt a little bit but with some good rest this afternoon I think I’ll be fine.”
The 31-year-old added: “I’ve been able to put my body through things like this over the years and hopefully I can keep it rolling one last time.
“Leaving everything in the pool one last time is what I’m going to do, and if that’s good enough to win, we’ll see.”
Lochte, 32, said: “This week, we’re just getting started. USA, we always show up when the time’s right.”
Elsewhere, Olympic organisers have admitted that more “could and should” have been done to test the diving venue after the water turned green.
The open-air Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre, which was built for the 2007 Pan American Games, is hosting the diving, synchronised swimming, and water polo events.
Staff at the venue originally said the diving pool’s emerald shade was a result of harmless algae caused by the heat and lack of wind.
However, yesterday, swimming’s world governing body Fina said the long duration of an Olympic diving competition led to the water tanks running out of “some of the chemicals used in the water treatment process”. Fina stressed that there was no health risk to the divers but said “the pH level of the water was outside the usual range, causing the discolouration”.
Spokesman Mario Andrada said: “We did have test events with the same number of divers but we are using the pool for a longer period now.
“The people in charge could and should have done more extensive tests during the day — we probably failed to notice what would happen over time.
“There is no risk to the athletes — an independent group has confirmed that — and the pool should go back to the classic blue colour soon.”
The divers, however, do not seem to be concerned, with several saying the change has actually helped them.
Britain’s Tom Daley, who won a bronze medal in the 10m synchronised diving on Monday, said: “It’s slightly strange to look at... but it actually does make it easier for us to dive because normally, when you’re spinning, it’s difficult to see which way is up when the sky and water are both blue.”
Canadian synchronised diver Meaghan Benfeito was another to call the situation “weird”, admitting she and her partner were trying not to laugh about it while climbing the diving tower and exchanged some last-second advice: “We said, ‘Don’t open your mouth in the water’. Just in case.”
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