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LONDON, England, August 1. CHINA's Jiao Liuyang smoked the field on the final 50 meters of the women's 200-meter fly en route to an Olympic record at the 2012 London Olympics.
Jiao, who took silver in the event behind teammate Liu Zige in 2008, 2:04.18 to 2:04.72, crushed the final 50 meters with a 2:04.06 for the Olympic gold medal this evening. The swim beat Liu's time from 2008 as the Olympic record, and bested Liu's overall textile best of 2:04.40 from Wuhan in April of 2011. Jiao now stands third all time in the event behind Liu (2:01.81) and Jessicah Schipper (2:03.41), both times from the techsuit era.
“I was not really thinking about the race that much,” Jiao said. “But it was my strategy to accelerate in the last 50m, as in the semifinal I swam too fast in the first half and it made me really tired for the second half. I am really happy but I still need to put more effort in training as it was not an easy win. Four years is a long time. A lot of things can change. Just look at Michael Phelps, he only got one gold medal this time. Maybe because I did not win four years ago (at Beijing 2008), it made me more consistent in my training, it kept me going.”
Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia finished second in 2:05.25 to jump to ninth in the all time rankings, becoming Spain's first medalist in the event's history. The medal is her first after taking eighth in the 400 IM earlier in the week, and previously only making semis of the 200 IM at the 2008 Beijing Games.
“I feel confused,” Belmonte Garcia said. “I felt confident at the first turn, I kept looking up but a medal was never certain. I felt nervous but strong. I feel like I've achieved a dream. I thought nothing as I left the pool. My mind went blank. It's been a year of highs and lows, but the medal is a dream come true.”
Japan's Natsumi Hoshi rounded out the podium with a bronze-winning 2:05.48. That improved upon her 2008 semifinal finish, and crushed her time from Beijing of 2:07.93. Her lifetime best of 2:04.69 from the techsuit era still stands. She joined Yuko Nakanishi (2004) as the only medalists in the event for Japan.
“I am relieved (by winning a medal),” Hoshi said. “I felt expectation from the others and I have aimed to win gold at such a big stage. I would like to say thank you to all who have supported me to achieve my goal. I have come with a belief so far. I raced in my way from the beginning until the end, so it was good. The last part was so hard but I didn't give up.”
USA's Kathleen Hersey, who had been strong throughout qualifying, had a tough start and could not come back, taking fourth in 2:05.78, a full second ahead of teammate Cammile Adams' fifth-place 2:06.78. Hersey's time is, however, a textile best among Americans, bettering the 2:05.88 clocked by Misty Hyman while winning the event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“I'm really disappointed, 0.3 seconds off the medal stand, but at the same time in four years I have come a long way and with everything that's happened this year, to be here with an amazing group of people is an accomplishment in itself,” Hersey said. “All you want to do is represent your country as best you can. I went out there, I did my best, I got my best time, so I can't really be too disappointed. It's under the American record before the fast suits so that's an accomplishment in my mind. My mom passed away in January and without them (my coaches) I wouldn't have been where I am now. So looking back it's really clear to me why I switched coaches, because I needed them as a support system.”
Great Britain's Jemma Lowe (2:06.80), Hungary's Zsuzsanna Jakabos (2:07.33) and defending champion Liu Zige (2:07.77) comprised the rest of the championship heat.
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