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LONDON, England, August 2. GREAT Britain's Rebecca Adlington, the defending Olympic champion in the women's 800-meter freestyle, kept her title defense chance intact at the 2012 London Olympics.
Adlington posted an 8:21.78 in the fifth-and-final heat of the morning qualifying to grab the top seed. Adlington, who won in 2008 could become the third swimmer to defend this title in Olympic history. Janet Evans (1988, 1992) and Brooke Bennett (1996, 2000) did so for the U.S. previously. Adlington, already a two-time Olympic gold medalist with a 400 and 800 sweep in 2008, is vying for her third Olympic gold. She took bronze in the 400 free on the first night.
“In the 400m freestyle I was ahead and then I missed out so I thought 'I've just got to go for it',” Adlington said. “It's the first time ever for me to swim in front of a crowd like this. The crowd has been insane. I was cheering for the guys last night (Wednesday). It definitely inspired me seeing them doing it. I'm just going to rest up and make sure that I get my preparation right.”
Denmark's Lotte Friis, the defending bronze medalist, is in a good spot to contend for the title after clocking an 8:21.89 in heat four. That time is faster than the 8:23.03 she used to take bronze in 2008. Friis just missed medaling in the 400 free earlier this week with a fourth-place effort.
“It was really easy and in control. I am satisfied with that race. Hopefully I will be even better than that tomorrow,” Friis said. “I hope the times will be even better and better than the world championships. I hope I can improve on my bronze in Beijing. Rebecca Adlington is the main competition, she's the home crowd favourite and Olympic champion. I am not underestimating her in any way. I'm looking forward to the final but I'm a little nervous. I'm going for best and I will swim my own race. It's difficult to say how much power the others will have in the race.”
USA's Katie Ledecky put on a show in heat three with an 8:23.84. Out under world-record pace early on, the 15-year-old who is the youngest member of the U.S. team, settled down to win her heat with a strong time. On top of vying for Olympic gold in the finale, she is still gunning for Janet Evans' 15-16 U.S. National Age Group record of 8:17.12 from 1988.
“I was a little nervous. I had a lot of adrenaline. I might have kicked out a little fast,” Ledecky said. “This is my first international competition so to be at an Olympic Games is really great. I'm just happy to have the other swimmers over here with me. It's a lot of fun.”
Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia (8:25.26), New Zealand's Lauren Boyle (8:25.91), Hungary's Boglarka Kapas (8:26.42), Venezuela's Andreina Pinto Perez (8:26.43) and France's Coralie Balmy (8:27.15) comprised the rest of the championship heat.
Notably, Kate Ziegler of the U.S. finished 21st with an 8:37.38. Ziegler has been battling the flu since the opening ceremonies, and it got the best of her this morning.
“I did a lot of sleeping, and I was in the water each day, but had to cut back on what we did. I had the flu,” Ziegler said. “I woke up the next day (after the Opening Ceremony) not feeling well, and wanted to continue everything, then two nights ago I slept 12 or 13 hours and took two-and-a-half hour naps in the day. It's a bummer. I came into this race thinking (starts crying) I was going to fight and do the best I could, and that's what I did. That's all you can ask for.”
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