2012 London Olympics: Defending Champion Federica Pellegrini Leads Way in Women’s 200 Free Prelims; Schmitt and Franklin Fractions Behind

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LONDON, England, July 30. DEFENDING gold medalist Federica Pellegrini of Italy posted the quickest time of the morning in the women's 200-meter freestyle to kick off day three of the 2012 London Olympics.

Pellegrini posted a 1:57.16 in heat three of five, getting her hand on the wall ahead of Missy Franklin in the same heat (1:57.62) in the process. That swim undercut the Olympic textile best of 1:57.65 posted by Heike Friedrich of East Germany in Seoul in 1988. Pellegrini topped the 2008 Beijing Olympics in this event with a 1:54.82 to 1:54.97 touch out over Slovenia's Sara Isakovic. She is looking to become the first person to ever repeat in the event's history. The closest to do so was Costa Rica's Claudia Poll, who picked up bronze in 2000 after winning gold in 1996.

“My time was OK, now I will concentrate on the semis and take it just one step at a time,” Pellegrini said. “All my bitterness [from missing the podium in the 400 free] finished there. I knew I gave everything I had, I can't bang my head against a wall. I am finding the motivation in myself without waiting for my body's reactions. I am just trying to go strong from start to finish.”

USA's Allison Schmitt qualified second in 1:57.33, with teammate Franklin in third in 1:57.62. The two are vying to become the first American to win the event since Nicole Haislett clocked a 1:57.90 to win the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the event. Last night, Schmitt won her first individual Olympic medal with a runner-up finish in the women's 400 free.

“I was happy after the 400 (meter freestyle) last night,” Schmitt said. “I felt stronger this morning and I'm saving it for tonight (the semifinals). I feel like I've been preparing for this race all year. I definitely feel ready to swim. I've been swimming well all year. It's been a fun journey. I'm looking forward to having more fun tonight.”

Russia's Veronika Popova and Spain's Melanie Costa Schmid tied for fourth with matching 1:57.79s, while Canada's Barbara Jardin (1:57.92), Great Britain's Caitlin McClatchey (1:58.03) and Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom (1:58.03) made up the top eight.

Also moving into semifinals, Canada's Samantha Cheverton (1:58.11), Australia's Bronte Barratt (1:58.12), Australia's Kylie Palmer (1:58.16), 400-meter freestyle victor Camille Muffat (1:58.49), Germany's Silke Lippok (1:58.59), China's Wang Shijia (1:58.73), Japan's Hanae Ito (1:58.93) and defending silver medalist Isakovic (1:58.96).

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