Published: Aug 2, 2012 03:19:16 AM Updated: Jun 4, 2013 10:07:08 AM
The Australian team of Bronte Barratt, Melanie Schlanger, Kylie Palmer and Alicia Coutts have put up a brave fight in the battle to defend their Olympic 4x200m freestyle relay title before going down to a white hot USA team.
Four years ago Barratt, Palmer, Stephanie Rice and the now retired Linda MacKenzie combined for the win and one of Australia’s most memorable moments in Beijing.
As they had in Beijing, the Aussies came into the final with a totally new team to the one of Brittany Elmslie, Angie Bainbridge, Jade Neilson and Blair Evans that helped them into the final as the fastest qualifiers. The selection of Coutts was seen by some as a gamble, but in reality she is the form Australian swimmer of the meet and was never going to let anyone down.
Barratt (1:55.76) got the team off to a brilliant start and handed over to Schlanger in second place, only for Schlanger (1:55. 62) to hit the wall in first, 0.6 ahead of the USA, with a stunning second leg. Palmer then maintained the lead, logging a 1:56.91, and when Coutts hit the water she held just over half a second advantage over USA.
But from then on it wasn’t really a fair fight – Coutts was swimming an event that probably isn’t in her top three, and the Americans were being anchored by the new Olympic champion in the individual 200m, Allison Schmitt.
In the end the USA clocked 7:42.92 to Australia’s 7:44.41. France was a distant third in 7:47.49.
The medal was Coutts’ fourth of the meet and she is now in line to match Ian Thorpe (Sydney in 2000) and Shane Gould (Munich in 1972) as the only Australians to win five medals at a single Olympic Games when she lines up in the 4x100m medley relay on the last night of the meet.
Schlanger, the team’s oldest swimmer at 25, said her side did the best they could.
“On paper they were much faster than us but we gave them a really good race and a silver medal is amazing,” Schlanger said.
Coutts said she didn’t find out she was even swimming the race until nine hours before she hit the pool.
“I had no idea I was doing the relay and hadn’t planned for it. I got a call about noon. I was having a massage,” she said.
“I was pretty nervous because I don’t do too many 200m freestyle’s but I just wanted to do the best I could and hopefully make the girls and everyone else proud.”
Men's 100m Freestyle SILVER MEDAL
James Magnussen has finished second in the glamour men’s 100 metres freestyle final by the barest of margins possible, missing the gold won by the USA’s Nathan Adrian by just 0.01 seconds.
Magnussen, the 2011 world champion, turned in fifth place 0.19 behind Adrian and by the 90m mark it looked like he had hauled Adrian in, but the 201cm American dug deep and somehow hung on to touch in 47.52 to Magnussen’s 47.53. The bronze was won by veteran Canadian Brent Hayden, the 2007 world champion, in 47.80, but to be fair it was all about the battle royal up front.
The silver was the first Olympic medal of Magnussen’s burgeoning career and a great effort after – by his lofty standards – he underperformed in the 4x100m freestyle relay final on Day 2.
Magnussen was disappointed to be so close yet so far from gold but was philosophical about what the silver medal meant.
“That hurts - I did my best tonight and it wasn’t quite good enough,” the man nicknamed ‘the Missile’ said.
“To lose by that amount stinks but I have had a lot of support over the last few days back in Australia and it has been a tough Olympics.
“They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger so hopefully I will come out of this a better swimmer and a better person.
“When you lose by that much you think about it and wonder what you could have done better“I did my best. It wasn’t as quick as trials but this is a different ball game.”
Men's 200m breaststroke
Australian Brenton Rickard has finished seventh in the men’s 200m breaststroke final won by Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta in a thrilling battle with Great Britain’s Michael Jamieson that nearly lifted the roof off the Aquatic Centre.
Rickard clocked 2:09.28 but could not find his way to the podium as he did when he won silver in the same event in Beijing four years ago. It was his fastest ever time in a textile suit.
Gyurta, who won a silver medal in the event at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games as a raw 15 year-old, and was fifth in Beijing, got to the wall in 2:07.28 for a glorious victory and a new world record.
Jamieson had the parochial British crowd willing his every stroke as he came at the Hungarian with everything he had – and he almost got there too – finishing in 2:07.43. Japan’s Ryo Tateishi won bronze in 2:08.29.
Rickard said he had been hoping for a return to the medal dais but it wasn’t to be.
“I was kind of hoping to find a bit more but it’s good to make an Olympic final,” Rickard said.
“I wanted to match the time I did in Beijing but I didn’t quite get there. (But) that was the fastest time I’ve done in a textile suit so I’m happy with that.
“Those guys were unbelievable, to have two swimmers go 2:07 low was amazing and I couldn’t match them.”
Rickard will now wait to see if he is required to swim in Australia’s 4x100m medley relay team. He was sixth in the 100m breaststroke final here behind Australian silver medallist Christian Sprenger.
Women’s 100 metres freestyle
Australian Melanie Schlanger has set her second personal best of the day – a 53.38 - to move through to the women’s 100 metres freestyle final in second place.
Dutch world number one Ranomi Kromowidjojo qualified quickest, winning the second semi-final in 53.05. She is undoubtedly the one to beat but as we have seen many times at this meet, reputation, and past times can mean little.
Schlanger swam the anchor leg in Australia’s victorious 4x100m freestyle relay team on Day 1 and showed plenty of fight to get her team home. Tonight her swim was one of authority and she looked every bit a gold medal threat tomorrow.
In the heats Schlanger clocked a personal best of 53.50 to move past 2004 Athens Olympic Games gold medallist Jodie Henry to third on the Australian all-time list – behind only Libby Trickett and Campbell. Now she is even faster.
American wonderkid Missy Franklin was third best in 53.59, while Germany’s defending Olympic champion Britta Steffen missed the final.
Men’s 200m backstroke
Like Melanie Schlanger before him, Olympic debutant Mitchell Larkin has swum a second personal best in less than ten hours by clocking 1:56.82 in the men’s 200m backstroke.
The time was good enough to earn 19 year-old Larkin, who came into the meet ranked 18 in the world, a surprise spot in the final tomorrow night after he qualified seventh.
American Tyler Clary (1:54.71) was the top finisher, with defending title holder Ryan Lochte (USA), who posted a 1:55.40 in second spot. Despite Clary’s great form, Lochte remains the man to beat in the final.
Larkin, an engineering student, made his senior international debut for Australia at the 2011 FINA World Championships and by his own admission didn’t perform as well as he had hoped. The same cannot be said for his Olympic debut and he now has the chance for further improvements tomorrow.
Larkin was clearly pleased with his performance but had already begun looking ahead to the final.
“I’m really happy with that tonight,” Larkin said.
“I was looking forward to building on my times from trials, through the heats here and into the semi-final tonight so I’m happy to have done that and I’ve made an Olympic final.
“I will see how I go tomorrow night. I came here tonight for the semi final with the attitude to enjoy it. The semi finals were my first goal and I achieved that so now I’ll go back and have a look at the race and a talk to my coach and see what we can do to improve for the final.”
Women’s 200m breaststroke
Dual Olympian Sally Foster swam a personal best time of 2:24.46 with a powerful last lap surge and qualified in eighth place for the women’s 200m breaststroke. The second Australian in the field, Olympic first timer Tessa Wallace, was 15th in 2:27.38.
Top qualifier though was American defending Olympic champion Rebecca Soni who set a world record of 2:20.00 in the second semi-final and what appeared to be the perfect swim.
Denmark’s Rikke Pedersen (2:22.23) was second quickest into the final – more than two seconds shy of Soni and it will take a monumental effort for someone to beat her tomorrow night.
Foster’s performance means a first Olympic final – a step up from Beijing four years ago when the 27 year-old industrial design student finished ninth.
Men’s 200m individual medley
Daniel Tranter clocked 2:00.46 and finished 14th in the 200m individual medley in his first ever Olympic semi-final.
The 20 year-old that trains under Brant Best and alongside James Magnussen at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre will be better for the experience in London and has the ability to go further with each international meet.
He only began training with Best a few months before this year’s Olympic Trials and that fact alone leaves him knowing he can improve as that relationship develops.
American stars Ryan Lochte (1:56.13) and Michael Phelps (1:57.11) were first and third fastest respectively, with Hungarian Laszlo Cseh (1:56.74) sandwiched between them. Phelps beat Cseh and Lochte on Beijing.
South Africa’s Chad le Clos, the surprise winner of the 200m butterfly last night scraped into the final in equal seventh.
Dave Lyall at the Aquatic Centre
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