It came down to a matter of hundredths of a second, but Virginia swimmers Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass earned the silver and bronze medals in the 200-meter Individual Medley, respectively. It was the Olympic debut for the Cavalier duo, and they are heading back to Charlottesville with some extra hardware.
The 200-meter IM involves each swimmer doing each of the four primary strokes — butterfly, back, breast, and free — one length of the pool. It’s frantic, fast, and often involves many lead changes as each swimmer is stronger in a different stroke.
Tuesday night’s final was no different.
Like both semifinal heats, the final race was electric and came down to the final stretch for the wall. Douglass had the top time in the semis, with Walsh just behind her in third. China’s Yu Yiting and Japan’s Yui Ohashi each led at times early, with Walsh taking the narrow lead as they transitioned from breaststroke to freestyle. That’s when Douglass turned it on, entering the fray in the final 20 meters of the race.
Walsh and Ohashi went neck-and-neck, with the latter — who defeated incoming first year Emma Weyant for the gold in the 400-meter IM earlier this week — touching the wall just .13 seconds before Walsh.
Ohashi finished with a time of 2:08.52, Walsh came in at 2:08.65, and Douglass lunged her head and hand to the wall with a time of 2:09.04.
Douglass looked shocked that she out-touched Great Britain’s Abbie Wood for third, breaking out in a huge smile before she reached across the lane marker to embrace her friend and teammate. As Walsh and Douglass hugged in the pool, their Virginia family celebrated wildly back at home in Charlottesville. The Cavalier swim team gathered to watch the race together, hanging on every stroke.
This is the third Olympic medal earned by Virginia swimmers so far as Walsh and Weyant have won silvers, with Douglass taking home a bronze. Paige Madden will have a chance to add to that total with the 4x200 relay race later this week.