LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. swim team came into the London Olympics on the back of a light-hearted, fun video with their medal hopes dancing, strutting and lip-synching to the pop hit ‘Call me maybe’.
They may need to choose a different tune, now. One with a little more certainty.
After Wednesday’s women’s 4x200 meters freestyle relay in the Aquatics Centre, the U.S. team have won twice as many golds (eight) as their nearest rival China and 18 of the 60 medals so far available.
They have collected at least one medal in 17 of the 20 races so far, and 10 more than China.
There have been lots of calls, including one from President Barack Obama to Michael Phelps to congratulate the American on winning a record 19th career medal and becoming the most successful Olympian of all time, and not many maybes.
“I think we had so much fun making that first video it would be hard to make a second one,” laughed Missy Franklin, now a double gold medalist with a bronze on the side, when asked what song she might choose now.
”It’s kind of awesome knowing that for the rest of my life whenever I hear that song, this meet is all I am going to be thinking about.
“I think it shows how close we are as a team and that we love what we’re doing and we’re having a blast with it,” added Franklin, who said earlier in the day that she had been running around like a “headless chicken” after teen pop idol Justin Bieber sent her a congratulatory message.
Phelps may not be the dominant force that he was in Beijing four years ago, when he picked up an unprecedented eight golds in a single Games, but he has not done badly by anyone else’s standards with a gold and two silvers.
As the video showed, the Americans are having fun.
“It means so much more when you do it together,” said Dana Vollmer, savoring her relay gold after winning the 100 butterfly on Sunday. “It’s so much bigger than yourself.”
They are also very much a united team, rather than one for the men and one for the women. The video, which swiftly went viral on the internet, was all part of that bonding process.
“If you look in that video, it’s both the men and the women involved,” said U.S. head coach Teri McKeever.
“(Men’s head coach) Gregg (Troy) and I have really talked a lot about the kind of atmosphere we wanted during camp...of having a ‘team team’. Its been a lot of fun.”
The 4x200 relay has had the U.S. flag planted on it for most of its existence, an event that had been held four times previously and been won on three of those occasions by the Americans.
Australia broke the run in Beijing but the champions had no answer to Allison Schmitt’s storming anchor length after she took over with the team in second place.
The other three watched, the occasional hand over mouth in nervous anticipation, exhorting her on as she powered towards the gold.
They won in an Olympic record time, with ‘Schmitty’ collecting her second gold of the Games after the 200 freestyle title on Tuesday.
She also has a silver from the 400 free and a bronze from the 4x100 free.
The four Americans had walked out before the start holding hands in a show of unity, after getting themselves in the mood behind the scenes with another song and dance routine.
On Wednesday they chose a Rihanna number.
“We always dance. Our whole team is really big on dancing,” said Franklin.
“I think the two big dancers are Schmitty and (Elizabeth) Beisel. They always get up before they swim...”
“She’s the talented dancer,” interjected Schmitt, to laughter all round.
When it comes to talent on the biggest stage of all, however, there has been no shortage.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury