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Short Course World Champs, Day 2 Finals: Japan's Yamada Takes the 800 Free -- October 8, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS, October 8. IN Athens, Japan’s Sachiko Yamada failed to match the expectations her countrymen held for her, but she reigns supreme in the short course 800-meter free, in which she holds the world record (8:13.35). So the 22 year-old distance ace was the overwhelming favorite here.

Tonight, the race went precisely to form. Sixteen year-old Kate Ziegler jumped out into the lead, taking a 1.2-second advantage after 100 meters and extending that to 1.4 seconds with her 2:01.56 at 200 meters, as four other swimmers split 2:03s. Then the Japanese champion began systematically chipping away at her teenage rival’s lead.

Ziegler turned at the halfway mark in 4:07.27, nine-tenths ahead of Yamada. But at the 550-meter turn, Yamada flipped first and steadily moved away, slowly but surely lengthening her margin. At the wall it was Yamada in 8:18.21, with Ziegler second in 8:20.55. Australia’s Melissa Gorman held off teammate Sarah Paton for third in 8:25.38.

An elated Yamada commented: “I’m very happy. I wanted to take it easy the first 100 meters and then put more pressure on my competitors,”

Ziegler, too, was thrilled with her first major international medal: “To do that well, I’m really happy, but man, did it hurt. I always take it out real hard and sprint from the beginning.”