SHANGHAI – The United States opened the first night of finals Sunday at the 14th FINA World Championships by winning two medals.
First, the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay took silver, the team of Natalie Coughlin, Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy and Dana Vollmer turning in a time of 3:34.47.
Then Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Jason Lezak and Nathan Adrian followed that up with a bronze in the men’s 4x100m free relay, touching in 3:11.96.
In addition, Vollmer set an American record in the semifinals of the women’s 100m butterfly, turning in a time of 56.47. The time bettered the former mark, set by Vollmer at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, by .47-hundredths of a second. Vollmer was under world-record pace at the 50-meter mark in Sunday’s race, and is the top seed heading into Monday’s finals.
In the women’s 4x100m free relay, the United States built a lead on the rest of the field through the first three legs, but couldn’t hold off the Dutch team in the final 50 meters. The Netherlands touched first in 3:33.96, while Germany was third in 3:36.05.
“We just wanted to go in there and do the best we could and see what happened,” Franklin said. “In ‘09 we were fourth, so to come back this year and be second is an incredible improvement, and we’re all very happy with how we did.”
Franklin, who is competing in her first World Championships, turned in the team’s fastest relay split (52.99) Sunday.
“That was my first time being a part of the U.S. finals relays, so just being a part of that was so exciting,” Franklin said. “Just standing there when I was getting ready to go off, the crowd started picking up, and it got so loud. The feeling I got was just so unbelievable. There’s really no way to describe it. To be a part of that with such an amazing group of girls is something special. I’m so glad I could be a part of it.”
Women’s team captain Coughlin was happy with the relay’s performance.
“We’re just really happy that we earned a medal, and we know we can improve,” Coughlin said. “Just knowing you can improve the little things is positive for the rest of the meet and the next year to come.”
The men’s 4x100 free relay trailed eventual champions Australia from the first leg and just couldn’t catch up. Australia finished in 3:11.00, followed by France in 3:11.14.
“It’s tough not starting out the way we want to,” Phelps said. “It stinks, but it’s going to give us some of motivation for the rest of the meet.”
Peter Vanderkaay just missed the medals podium, finishing fourth in the men’s 400m freestyle with time of 3:44.83. Vanderkaay held the sixth position for most of the race, but a late surge fell short of the bronze by 69-hundredths of a second. Korea’s Park Tae Hwan was first in 3:42.04, followed by China’s Sun Yang in 3:43.24 and Germany’s Paul Biedermann in 3:44.14.
“It’s a little bit disappointing,” Vanderkaay said. “I didn’t feel as sharp as I did in the morning. I still went faster, but to miss a medal by one spot is pretty bittersweet.
“I got a little bit of experience. A lot of the same guys will be in the Olympic final. That’s a great time for me. I’m just a little bit disappointed in the place.”
In the women’s 400m free, the USA’s Katie Hoff finished seventh in 4:08.22. Federica Pellegrini of Italy took gold in 4:01.97, while Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain and Camille Muffat of France took silver and bronze in 4:04.01 and 4:04.06.
In addition to Vollmer, the following American swimmers competed in tonight’s semi-finals: Christine Magnuson, 12th, women’s 100m butterfly, 58.59; Ariana Kukors, 2nd, women’s 200m IM, 2:09.83; Caitlin Leverenz, 6th, women’s 200m IM, 2:11.15; Mark Gangloff, 6th, men’s 100m breaststroke, 1:00.19.
The top eight swimmers in each of Sunday’s semifinals will compete in Monday night’s finals.
The 14th FINA World Championships continues Monday with prelims and semifinals of the women’s 100m backstroke, the men’s 200m freestyle, the women’s 100m breaststroke and the men’s 100m backstroke. Monday night’s finals include the women’s 100m fly, men’s 50m fly, women’s 200m IM and the men’s 100m breaststroke. Prelims of the women’s 1500m free will also be held Monday.
For complete result from the meet, go to omegatiming.com.