Facts going into the race:
Impact of morning finals: what it took to qualify for semis:
Notes from the race:
The see-saw between Libby Trickett, nee Lenton (AUS) and Britta Steffen (GER) had been a geographic long-distance thriller dominated by the Australian - until Beijing: 53.66 to Lenton; 53.52 to Henry; 53.42 to Lenton; 53.30 to Steffen; gold for Lenton, bronze for Steffen at Melbourne 2007; 52.99 to Lenton but the record did not count because she swam in a mixed relay next to Phelps at the USA v AUS Duel in the Pool; and an LZR-clad 52.88 for Lenton. Steffen's suit was made by adidas. She was off the pace. Adidas made a new version of its newest one after the crunch meeting with FINA at the world short-course championships in May. Never before has the suit been so central to the hopes and dreams of those gunning for Olympic gold. In her newest new adidas, Steffen clocked a European record of 53.05 just before the Games. The race was back on but then Trickett almost missed the final, while wearing an old-style FS-Pro. Big mistake: over 54sec. Only the disqualification, for a false start, of Pang Jiaying (CHN) saved the Australian. The emotion of it all proved too much. Steffen seized the day (see profile) and took advantage of the lane draw, Trickett in 88, the German in 7. A hare to chase. And chase it she did. "She fought hard for it, I fought hard for it," said Trickett. " it didn't take the edge off (getting silver), it is part of the Olympics. It was very emotional, that is why I started crying during the medal ceremony." Take the dive away from Steffen and her home journey was as fast as her outbound speed: 26.04 (to Trickett' 25.18) and 27.08. A footnote beyond the Beijing final: 52 of the fastest 100 times ever swum over 100m freestyle were clocked since February 2008. Steffen said: "I really worked a lot with my psychologist. When I was on the blocks this time I didn't feel like everyone else was better than me. I know now that is rubbish, I can do this."
Impact on the all-time top 10:
All-time top 10, end 2007:
HISTORY IN THE MAKING:
Of the 23 finals contested since 1912, the USA leads the way with eight titles to Australia's five, though 1984 was the last time and American won (see closest shave). The greatest of them all is Dawn Fraser, winner in 1956, 60 and 64 and prevented from defending in 1988 by a pig-headed decision of Aussie bureaucrats, led by then President of FINA William Berge Phillips, that banned her for 10 years (later reduced to four) for (officially) wearing the wrong tracksuit and marching at the 1964 Opening Ceremony when told not to (Zhou Ming, punished for eight years for plying underage girls with steroids, eat your heart out). In 2008, Britta Steffen became the fourth German to win the crown, the previous three East Germans racing for the GDR, Steffen an east German racing for Germany.