LONDON – Dana Vollmer won the United States Olympic Swimming Team’s second gold medal of the meet and set a world record Sunday in the finals of the women’s 100m butterfly, turning in a time of 55.98.
It was one of four medals for Team USA on the second night of competition. Allison Schmitt took silver and set an American record in the women’s 400m freestyle; Brendan Hansen took bronze in the men’s 100m breaststroke; and Nathan Adrian, Michael Phelps, Cullen Jones and Ryan Lochte took silver in the men’s 4x100m free relay.
Sunday’s effort brought the Americans’ record count in the pool to eight – 2 gold, three silver and three bronze.
Women’s 100m Butterfly
Vollmer, the reigning world champion in the 100m butterfly, made no secret of her goal to smash the 56-second barrier in that event, and she finally pulled it off in Sunday’s finals.
The field was tight for the first half of the race, with Vollmer touching third at the 50-meter mark, six-hundredths of a second behind leader Jeanette Ottesen of Denmark and three-hundredths of a second behind teammate Claire Donahue.
From there, Vollmer inched ahead of the field, building her lead with each stroke down the homestretch. With one last lunge at the wall, she caught that elusive Olympic gold medal and world record. China’s Lu Ying took silver in 56.87, while Australia’s Alicia Coutts took bronze in 56.94. Donahue was seventh in 57.48.
Sunday’s win was the pinnacle of the last four years for Vollmer. After winning gold and helping set a world record in the women’s 4x200m free relay at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, she failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Team in Beijing.
She returned to the pool a year later to set the American record in the 100 fly at the 2009 FINA World Championships, then broke that record four more times between last year’s World Championships and yesterday’s prelims.
Sunday, she became the first American woman to win an Olympic gold in this event since 1996 and the first female swimmer to break the 56-second barrier in the 100 fly.
“For the past year I’ve had my eye on that 55,” Vollmer said. “To be the first person to do that pulls together the experience I’ve had here. There were multiple moments in my career where I didn’t know I was going to be here. I did something no one’s ever done before, and there were a lot of people (family, coaches, friends) who helped me pull it all off.”
Men’s 100m Breaststroke
Vollmer’s swim was one of two world records broken Sunday.
Cameron van der Burgh took down the mark in the men’s 100m breaststroke, touching in 58.46. Finishing behind him were Christian Sprenger of Australia in 58.93 and Hansen in 59.49.
This bronze medal caps a successful comeback for Hansen. After winning a silver in the 100 breast at the 2004 Games, Hansen finished fourth in this event in Beijing and walked away from the sport for two years.
“This (medal) means the most to me, actually,” Hansen said. “It kind of solidified me coming back into the sport and being effective. If you remember back about eight months ago in the U.S., there were 15 or 20 athletes in the U.S. that were trying to make a comeback. I was kind of thrown in with that group, but I feel like I really wanted to say I was going to do something and follow through with it. Tonight I did that.”
Women’s 400m Freestyle
Allison Schmitt was the lone American finalist in the women’s 400m freestyle and put up quite a fight, going stroke-for-stroke with France’s Camille Muffat the entire race. The two began to pull away from the rest of the pack at the 300-meter mark, but Muffat pulled away from Schmitt down the stretch, touching in an Olympic-record time of 4:01.45. Schmitt’s was second in 4:01.77, an American record. Great Britain’s Rebecca Adlington was third in 4:03.01.
Schmitt’s silver was her best showing so far at an Olympic Games. She won bronze in the 4x200m free relay in Beijing and bronze in last night’s finals of the 4x100m free relay. Her best showing in the 400 free on the international stage prior to Sunday night was a fourth-place finish at the 2009 World Championships.
“The goal is always a gold medal, but I couldn’t be happier right now,” Schmitt said. “I’m proud to bring home the silver medal for the U.S., and I’m looking forward to competing again tomorrow.”
Men’s 4x100 Free Relay
The men’s 4x100m free relay was a reverse showing of the now-legendary 4x100 free relay in Beijing, with the French coming out on top this time, 3:09.93 to 3:10.38. Adrian took the lead on the field in the first leg, with Phelps extending that lead to about a body length in the second spot with the second-fastest split in the field (47.15).
“I felt a lot better today than yesterday,” Phelps said. “I was able to put yesterday behind me.”
Jones lost a little ground but kept the U.S. out front, giving Lochte about a half-second head start on the French. In the end, though, Lochte couldn’t hold off Yannick Agnel in the final 100. Agnel’s split of 46.74 bested Lochte’s effort by a full second and was the fastest of all 32 swimmers in the field. Russia was third in 3:11.41.
“We don’t go into any relay hoping for silver or bronze,” Adrian said. “We go into a relay hoping to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t. We’ve got to take it for what it is.”
“We were the best four guys (the U.S. could field),” Lochte said. “We went out there to win, but we came up short.”
Americans swimming in semifinals Sunday included Ryan Lochte in the men’s 200m freestyle (5th, 1:46.31), Ricky Berens in the men’s 200m free (9th, 1:46.87), Rebecca Soni in the women’s 100m breaststroke (2nd, 1:05.98), Breeja Larson in the women’s 100m breast (4th, 1:06.70), Matt Grevers in the men’s 100m backstroke (1st, 52.66), Nick Thoman in the men’s 100m back (5th, 53.47), Missy Franklin in the women’s 100m back (2nd, 59.12) and Rachel Bootsma in the women’s 100m back (11th, 1:00.04).
The top eight swimmers in the semifinals will advance to tomorrow night’s finals.