Day 3-Finals: US men out of this world in 4x100; GBR Women Win Gold, Bronze in 400 Free
Beijing-In my 18 years of international swimming I have never witnessed such an incredible comeback as I saw today. Twenty minutes later and I am still shaking. Jason Lezak (USA) had the most insane swim to anchor the US men to gold with his 46.06. He came back from 6 tenths behind the World Record holder Alain Bernard (FRA) to give Michael Phelps (USA) the gold that he needs most. Lezak is a god with that swim; I have never seen anything like it. And right after the women's 400, which saw Rebecca Addlington (GBR) win the first gold for a British woman since 1960, when SwimNews contributor Anita Lonsbrough won the 200 breast. Who said morning finals wouldn't be exciting!
Women's 100 Back Semi-Finals
The clear favourite now for gold is Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) who lowered the World Record to 58.77 with her win in the second semi. Coventry maintains her stroke and turnover consistently, never faltering. Her touch leaves something to be desired, in both the heat and semi she looked too close to the wall, leaving ample room for a bigger drop tomorrow if she can hit it right. "I thought, 'I'm good, I'm going to make it into the final,' so I slowed my tempo down a bit," said Coventry. "I wasn't expecting [a World Record]."
Despite a terrible start, Anastasia Zueva (RUS) came back to touch second in 59.77 with Margaret Hoelzer (USA) third in 59.84. Laure Manaudou (FRA) was way back in 1:00.19 and once again squeaked into the final in lane 8.
Natalie Coughlin (USA) looked much sharper this morning in the first semi-final: her start and finish were much more upbeat than yesterday. "It went very well," said Coughlin. "It's exactly where I wanted to be going into the finals. I'm happy with that, I just need to recover and focus on my final." Her turn and underwater skills were challenged only by NCAA Champ Gemma Spofforth (GBR) who trains at the University of Florida with Ryan Lochte (USA). Coughlin won in 59.43, with Reiko Nakamura (JPN) second in 59.64 and Spofforth in 59.79, a new British record.
Men's 200 Free Semi-Finals
Two big scratches happened at the final hour this morning as Brent Hayden (CAN) and Amaury Leveaux (FRA) pulled out to ready themselves for this morning's relay. Add in the absence from the event of Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED), Ryan Lochte (USA) and Grant Hackett (AUS) who all occupy some of the top 6 spots on the all-time list, and the silver and bronze medals are up for grabs.
Jean Basson (RSA) one of 10 foreign swimmers training at the University of Arizona here in Beijing, won the first semi in 1:46.13 and was the only swimmer to qualify for the final. The rest of the field got caught up and no one else was under 1:47.
In the second semi, Dominik Meichtry (SUI) who trains at Berkeley and dates Jessica Hardy (USA), took it out hard as he did in the heats, but faded to 6th touching in 1:46.54. From lane 7, Peter Vanderkaay (USA) won in 1:45.76, just faster than his time at US Trials. Tae-Hwan Park (KOR) was second in 1:45.99 and Michael Phelps (USA) third in 1:46.28.
"It was a little bit hard coming off that 400," said Vanderkaay of his heat swim yesterday. "I was tired last night, but I felt better this morning. I swam a lot better race than last night. I've put myself in a good spot for tomorrow."
"I want the gold medal," said Park confidently, but perhaps about a future Games. "There are some technique gaps between me and Phelps. I want to win, but I need more training."
Women's 100 Fly Finals
World Record holder Inge de Bruijn (NED) and former World Record Jenny Thompson (USA) were in the house to watch Libby Trickett win her first individual Olympic gold with a 56.73, just shy of de Bruijn's 56.61. "It's more than I could have dreamed of," said Trickett of the need to win gold after missing the final in 2004, "More than anything, I'm relieved. Before the race I felt like I was going to vomit, I was so nervous. Then, as I walked out, I felt this amazing sense of calm over me…I really wanted to walk away with no regrets."
Christine Magnuson (USA) had another great swim to claim the silver in 57.10, just off her American record from semis, but a brilliant swim for this relative newcomer to the international scene. Magnuson has surely solidified her spot on the US medley relay with 3 great swims here in Beijing. "It's been an amazing ride. This is what I've been wanting my entire career," said the University of Tennessee swimmer coached by Matt Kredich. "I was really relieved. I thought I messed up my turn…It gives me something to improve upon. It's one of those things you are thinking, 'Should I take an extra stroke or not?' I did yesterday, but today I didn't. I know my roommates are probably sitting there thinking, 'Why is she so happy with silver?' but I'm just so happy to be here."
Bronze went to Jessicah Schipper (AUS) who was last off the blocks and came up half a body length behind Trickett. Her suit broke in the ready room, and although she was able to get into a new one in time for her race, she was visibly flustered after the race and said it had bothered her. I guess this is the price of speed.
Men's 100 Breast Final
Putting to bed once and for all any question of his breaststroke dominance, Kosuke Kitajima devoured the field and spat out a World Record on route to gold in 58.91. He is the first man under 59 and now the back to back Olympic Champion. "The Olympic Games is something enjoyable for me. I feel really happy to have this moment again. I'm very happy to stand at the same position on the podium with this time," said Kitajima. "I tried to swim precisely for each stroke and keep a good rhythm. My performance was perfect and ideal. I would have been baffled if you do not say that was perfect."
In a superb swim, Dale Alexander Oen (NOR) won silver in 59.20, just off his semi time. Like Magnuson in the women's fly, he didn't let the pressure of the Olympic final get to him, coming home with a well earned medal.
With 2 of the top 10 all-time failing to advance to the final (Chris Cook (GBR) and Cameron van der Burgh (RSA)), the race for bronze was open. Hugues Duboscq (FRA) came through with a 59.37. Former World Record holder, Brendan Hansen (USA) was 4th in 59.57 and Brenton Rickard (AUS) and Roman Sludnov (RUS) were also under 60 for 5th and 6th spot.
Women's 100 Breast Semi-Final
Leisel Jones (AUS) posted another sub 1:06 with her 1:05.80. She is the only woman in that league and the favourite tomorrow.
Rebecca Soni (USA) who is swimming this event only after the removal of her training partner Jessica Hardy (USA) who tested positive for Clenbuterol at the US Trials, sits in second spot with her win in the first semi of 1:07.07. Her touch was cramped, and she should be able to get down to her best for the final. "It felt great," said Soni. "My second half was great. It felt good to swim the 100. It felt better than last night."
Men's 100 Back Semi-Final
Even though the Americans occupy 7 of the 8 top times in the World in this event, the rest of the world is not rolling over. Two Olympic records went down, first by Arkady Vyatchanin (RUS) in 53.06, then by Hayden Stoeckel (AUS) in 52.97.
Matt Grevers (USA) was second in his semi in 52.99 for another personal best. This, coming from a man who hasn't trained back all year! He also had a great anchor leg last night on the 4x100 relay, which broke the World Record, and was the event he was training for. "It felt better than yesterday," said Grevers. "Usually I'm a night swimmer more than a morning swimmer."
Markus Rogan (AUT) missed the final with his 9th place swim, but defending champ and World Record holder, Aaron Peirsol secured a lane with his 53.56.
Women's 400 Free Final
What an incredible race! The best individual race so far here at these Games with the lead changing 3 times before Rebecca Addlington (GBR) out-touched Katie Hoff (USA) to win Britain's first women's medal in 24 years. Her time of 4:03.22 to Hoff's 4:03.29 was slower than heats, but gold is gold. In for bronze was teammate Jo Jackson (GBR) in 4:03.52. A brilliant race for both women. Back at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, British swimmers Sarah Hardcastle and June Croft won silver and bronze in the same event, the last time British women found medal in the water until tonight. "I couldn't really see the rest of the pool," said Addlington. "All I could see was Katie." As for sharing the limelight with her countrywoman? "We are both so happy. Two British girls on the podium, what more could you ask for?"
Katie Hoff (USA) took the lead from Laure Manaudou (FRA) at the 200 and stretched it to a body length by the 300, but in the final 25, Addlington dug in, caught her, and edged herself in front by just 7 one hundredths. Hoff looked completely exhausted in the water and pretty gutted on the podium. Federica Pellegrini (ITA) was 2 seconds slower than last night and 3 off her World Record, finishing 5th, while Manaudou completely caved, touching last in 4:11.26.
"I felt like I was a good racer," said Hoff afterwards. "But I feel like I should have got my hand on the wall first. I gave it everything I had possibly, but they got me on the end. It was a good race out there, and the silver medal is one step up from the bronze. I would have loved to touch first, but there is nothing more I could do."
Men's 4x100 Free
Where to start?! So many great swims from all 32 men racing tonight, but the King is certainly Jason Lezak with his 46.06 split, gold medal, and World Record. Phelps led out with a 47.51, which is the 3rd fastest time ever in the event and a new American record, while Garrett Weber-Gale and Cullen Jones each split 47.02 and 47.65 respectively to give the Americans a 3:08.24 World Record.
"It was unbelievable," said Phelps. "Jason finished the race better than we could have asked for. In the last 50, I was like, 'This is going to be a really close race.' Jason in the last 50 was incredible. At the end, as you could see, I was pretty excited, I was very emotional!"
The French touched in 3:08.32 for silver with Alain Bernard anchoring in 46.73 and Frederick Bousquet swimming 3rd in 46.63. Eamon Sullivan led out the Aussies with a new World Record of 47.24. Matt Targett anchored with a 47.25 to win bronze in 3:09.91. Italy was fourth and Sweden fifth, both in times under the old World Record.
Canada's Brent Hayden led out in 47.56, which is almost a second faster than his old Canadian record and 4th on the all-time list. Joel Greenshields split a 47.77 and the team finished in 3:12.23, a new national record.
Defending champs, South Africa, were 7th with the Brits in 8th.