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LONDON, England, July 31. ALLISON Schmitt earned her first individual Olympic gold medal with a stunning effort in the women's 200-meter freestyle finale at the 2012 London Olympics, while her teammate Missy Franklin missed the podium by the slimmest of margins.
Schmitt blistered the field with a 1:53.61 for the win. That time crushed the Olympic record of 1:54.82 set by Federica Pellegrini at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and also bested Schmitt's American mark of 1:54.40. That swim had stood as the overall textile best as well. Schmitt's time this evening is the second fastest ever, behind only Federica Pellegrini's world record of 1:52.98 from the techsuit era.
The win gave Schmiit her third Olympic medal of the meet, one of each color with silver in the 400 free and bronze in the 400 freestyle relay. She also won bronze as part of the 800 free relay in 2008. The win returned the title to the U.S. for the first time since Nicole Haislett topped the 200 free in 1992. Debbie Meyer (1968) and Mary Wayte (1984) are the only other Americans to win this event.
“I couldn't be happier,” Schmitt said. “I couldn't see anything other than the racer next to me, so I didn't know where I was or what the time was. I just tried to keep focused and to keep calm. Mike (Phelps) and I were joking before the race that he said as soon as you get on the blocks it's time to start focusing. I got a whole collection of [medals] now. Right now, they're somewhere in my room, a secret place, I kind of stashed them.”
France's Camille Muffat closed to second with a 1:55.58 as she and Schmitt switched spots from the 400 free. Muffat grabbed the 400 free title on the first night, and now has her second career Olympic medal. She is the second woman from France to medal in the event, as Solenne Figues took bronze in 2004.
Australia's Bronte Barratt clocked a 1:55.81, edging Franklin's 1:55.82 by just .01 seconds, to snag the final podium spot. The bronze is Barratt's first individual Olympic medal. She earned gold in relay duty on the women's 800 free relay at the 2008 Olympics. She is the first swimmer from Australia to medal in the event since Susie O'Neill won in 2000.
“I didn't really think this would be possible for me. To win an individual Olympic medal is a dream come true,” Barratt said. “It was pretty difficult to be in lane four between (Allison) Schmitt and (Camille) Muffat. I knew Schmitty was going to go out hard so I was really just trying to switch off from her and when I saw how far in front she was I thought, 'OK, let's focus on the rest of the girls in the race.' I was just doing my own thing and keeping my head down. I had no idea [it was that close with Missy]. I wasn't aware I was 0.01 (seconds) in front of her. I couldn't see her.”
Franklin finished fourth in 1:55.82, missing a chance for a third Olympic medal after winning the 100 back. Defending gold medalist Pellegrini wound up fifth in 1:56.73, while Russia's Veronika Popova (1:57.25), Great Britain's Caitlin McClatchey (1:57.60) and Australia's Kylie Palmer (1:57.68) also vied for Olympic hardware.
“It's difficult for you to understand it, but I am the same one I was in Shanghai and in Beijing. Sport is like that, you need to accept your defeats,” Pellegrini said. “There is still the relay to concentrate on. I will not let my teammates down.”
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