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LONDON, England, July 30. AUSTRALIA's Bronte Barratt utilized a strong final 50 meters to overtake the field in the first semifinal with the top-seeded time of the women's 200-meter freestyle event at the 2012 London Olympics.
Barratt clocked a time of 1:56.08, edging Allison Schmitt (1:56.15) and Camille Muffat (1:56.18) at the finish. That swim eclipsed defending gold medalist Federica Pellegrini's Olympic textile best of 1:57.16 posted during prelims. The Olympic record still stands at Pellegrini's 1:54.82 clocked at the 2008 Beijing Games during the techsuit era. In the finale, Barratt will look to become just the second Australian to win the event, joining Susie O'Neill's 2000 victory in Sydney.
“It is a surprise. I just wanted to get to the final,” Barratt said. “I wasn't thinking about lanes. I was feeling quite strong and I was happy to see that I swam past Allison Schmitt and Camille Muffat who were probably tired from the 400 last night, but still I overtook two medallists from the 400 so that gives me alot of confidence.”
Schmitt, who already took silver in the women's 400 free and bronze in the women's 400 freestyle relay, could add a third medal after her 1:56.15. She'd like to become the first American to win the title since Nicole Haislett topped the event at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Muffat, the 400 free victor, could become France's second medalist in the event. Solenne Figues won bronze in 2004.
Pellegrini could become the first swimmer to ever defend her title in the event after qualifying fourth in 1:56.67. She also is looking to become the first swimmer to win three medals in the event's history after taking silver in 2004.
“I go step by step. I have to give everything tomorrow,” Pellegrini said. “I was a little bit tired. We finished very late yesterday evening and today we had to wake up at six o'clock. I thought [the other swimmers] were going to push from the beginning today. I think they are a bit tired too. Tomorrow with 1.56.70 you don't get anything. I think you need a low 1.55 to win.”
Russia's Veronika Popova (1:56.84), Great Britain's Caitlin McClatchey (1:57.33), Australia's Kylie Palmer (1:57.44) and USA's Missy Franklin (1:57.57) rounded out the championship heat. Franklin may have been conserving some energy with the women's 100 back less than 20 minutes away.
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