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LONDON, England, July 29. FRANCE's Camille Muffat held off a hard-charging Allison Schmitt of the U.S. to capture her first Olympic medal with an Olympic record in the women's 400-meter freestyle this evening at the 2012 London Olympics.
Muffat led wire-to-wire, winning the event in 4:01.45. That swim bettered the Olympic record of 4:02.19 set by Federica Pellegrini at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but fell short of Muffat's textile best of 4:01.13 set just in March this year. She joins Swimming World World Swimmer of the Year Laure Manaudou as the only Frenchwomen to win the event. Manaudou topped the 2004 podium with a 4:05.34.
“I'm relieved and happy,” Muffat said. “I haven't thought about all the work, I was thinking about the other swimmers and my family. I didn't speak with them a lot as I knew I would be disppointed if I didn't win. Being an Olympic champion was the most difficult dream to reach. I knew this year I was the best, but I didn't expect to win.”
Schmitt, meanwhile, hung on Muffat's hip the entire way before turning on the burners at 300 meters, but could not catch the winner, winding up with an American record time of 4:01.77 in the process for silver. She became just the fifth swimmer ever to break 4:02 after beating Katie Hoff's American standard of 4:02.20 set back in 2008. The medal is her first individual Olympic hardware after picking up a bronze with 800 freestyle relay duty back in 2008.
“I knew it was going to be tough and I knew it was going to be close, even before it happened,” Schmitt said. “I was just racing the whole time. I'm excited to get my first individual medal.”
Great Britain's Rebecca Adlington, the reigning gold medalist, did not have enough in her tank to defend her title, settling for bronze with a 4:03.01. She's just the fourth swimmer to win a pair of medals in the event's history, joining Dagmar Hase and Janet Evans as swimmers who were unable to match Martha Norelius' title defense in 1924 and 1928.
“I did not expect to medal,” Adlington said. “It's a really tough race. The only disappointment is with the time, as I know it's slower that I swam in March. The crowd definitely helped me and lifted my performance and I can't wait to share the medal with them. A lot of people expected me to get a gold and the fact that I got that reception when I got out the pool (having won a bronze) is amazing. Everyone else put that pressure on me. I didn't put that pressure on myself. The 800m is going to be a battle. To get a medal in the 400m is unbelievable and at least I can say I gave everything. There is not an ounce of disappointment. Swimming is one of those sports, it's really hard to medal in. I can only do my best.”
Denmark's Lotte Friis (4:03.98), Pellegrini (4:04.50), France's Coralie Balmy (4:05.95), Canada's Brittany Maclean (4:06.24) and New Zealand's Lauren Boyle (4:06.25) rounded out the finale.
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