South African Tatjana Schoenmaker was the star of the day, setting the first individual swimming world record at the Tokyo Olympics.
Others also shone.
Evgeny Rylov completed a backstroke brace for Russia, Emma McKeon gave the Australians another gold medal and China won a return trip to the top step of the podium.
The powerful Americans? For the first time in the competition, they spent the entire Friday session watching the others take gold.
Schoenmaker, a 24-year-old South African, won the women’s 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2 minutes, 18.95 seconds, beating the mark of 2: 19.11 set by Dane Rikke Moller Pedersen at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona.
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It was the third world record at the Tokyo Aquatic Center, the first two having been achieved in the women’s relays.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” said Schoenmaker, who added to her silver in the 100 breaststroke. “It couldn’t have been a better race. It still doesn’t permeate, maybe someday.”
Rylov completely stifled US dominance on the back, adding the 200 title to his victory in the 100 backstroke.
Rylov won with an Olympic record of 1: 53.29, while American Ryan Murphy took the silver (1: 54.15).
Murphy was a two-time gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he extended an American winning streak that began at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
The United States have won 12 back-to-back men’s backstroke events in six Olympics, but that streak ended with Rylov winning the 100. He did it 2 for 2 in the longest race, while that Murphy settled for bronze and silver in both events.
Great Britain’s Luke Greenbank took bronze in the 200 in 1: 54.72.
McKeon touched first in the 100 freestyle with an Olympic record of 51.96, becoming only the second woman to break 52 seconds in the sprint.
Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong took silver in 52.27 while fellow Australian Cate Campbell took bronze in 52.52. American Abbey Weitzeil finished last in the eight-woman field.
The Australians won four women’s individual events at the Tokyo Aquatics Center, in addition to setting a world record in a 4×100 freestyle relay that featured both McKeon and Campbell.
The Down Under team have six gold medals in total, tied with the Americans, although the United States leads in total medals.
the Americans won three medals on Friday, also claiming the other two podium spots behind Schoenmaker.
But it was the first time the US team had gone through an entire finals session in Tokyo without winning at least one gold medal.
Lilly King set a breakneck pace early in the 200 breaststroke and retained a silver in 2: 19.92, adding to her bronze in the 100m. Annie Lazor took bronze in 2: 20.84.
“I’m not coming from behind that’s for sure, so I just wanted to put it over there and see where it goes,” King said. “I thought I did well.”
A day after winning their first two pool gold medals, China claimed another victory when Wang Shun touched first place in the men’s 200 IM.
Wang edged Britain’s Duncan Scott with a time of 1: 55.00. Scott took silver in 1: 55.28, while bronze went to Swiss Jeremy Desplanches in 1: 56.17.
It was another disappointment for local star Daiya Seto, who did not even qualify for the final of her first two events. He managed the 200 IM, but narrowly missed a medal with a fourth place – just five hundredths of a second behind the Swiss bronze medalist.
American Michael Andrew led after the third stage, taking first place in breaststroke. But he passed out in freestyle to finish fifth, more than 2 seconds behind the winner.
“I think it hurts more than it looks, and it looked pretty bad,” Andrew said. “I knew I had to be quick at 150 and prayed for some power of the Holy Spirit to bring me home in that (last) 50, but it wasn’t all there.”
But the United States has several good chances of winning gold in the final two days of the swimming competition.
Caeleb Dressel has two individual finals left and Katie Ledecky is a big favorite in the 800 freestyle.
Dressel set another Olympic record in the 100 butterfly semifinals.
A few minutes after Hungary’s Kristof Milak beat the mark in the first semi-final, Dressel went even faster with a time of 49.71 in the second set.
“I feel great,” Dressel said. “I’m not worried about the schedule. I’ve been writing it for a few weeks now. I know what’s coming up. I know how to beat it properly. I know how to take care of my body.”
It was the third fastest time in history and left Milak second in qualifying with 50.31.
In the preliminaries, Dressel tied the former Olympic record of 50.39 set by Joseph Schooling of Singapore to win gold at the Rio 2016 Games.
Dressel will be a big favorite in Saturday morning’s final, although he could be pushed by Milak. The Hungarian has already won the 200 butterfly with a dominant victory.
Dressel clinched the first individual gold of his career with a victory in the 100 freestyle.