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LONDON, England, July 29. TO make finals of the women's 400 free, swimmers had to lay it on the line in prelims as the reigning Olympic gold medalist nearly did not get a chance to defend her title at the 2012 London Olympics.
From well back in heat three, Rebecca Adlington was lucky enough to have her 4:05.75 hold up after two heats of blistering times were thrown down after her swim. Adlington is looking to become only the second swimmer to ever defend the women's 400 free title. Martha Norelius of the U.S. won the first two iterations of the event back in 1924 and 1928, and no one has been able to match that feat. Dagmar Hase and Janet Evans both tried, but wound up falling from gold medal to silver the following Olympiad in the 90s.
“It felt faster,” Adlington said. “You just don't know. Being in the first heat I had no option, I just had to go for it.”
Meanwhile, the Olympic textile best of 4:03.85 set by Evans at the 1988 Seoul Olympics finally fell with a pair of Frenchwomen progressing the time twice. Coralie Balmy first dipped under the legendary time with a 4:03.56 in heat four, which qualified her third overall. Camille Muffat (4:03.29) and USA's Allison Schmitt (4:03.31) also cleared the time in their heat five showdown. Muffat and Balmy are hoping to return the gold medal to their country after Laure Manaudou won the nation's only Olympic title in the event in 2004.
“I made the final and I am excited to race tonight,” Schmitt said. “I will save my best for tonight. There are a lot of great names in there and it is really going to be a great swim. I think I will really have to chase in the race. It will be tight whoever wins.”
New Zealand's Lauren Boyle jumped to 12th in the all time rankings with her sterling effort of 4:03.63 in heat five, while Denmark's Lotte Friis placed fifth in 4:04.22. Canada's Brittany Maclean (4:05.06) and world-record holder Federica Pellegrini (4:05.30) qualified sixth and seventh.
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