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LONDON, England, August 4. THE fearsome foursome of Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and Allison Schmitt left no doubt about the winner of the women's 400-meter medley relay as Team USA demolished the field with a world record at the 2012 London Olympics.
Franklin (58.50), Soni (1:04.82), Vollmer (55.48) and Schmitt (53.25) led wire-to-wire as the squad upended the world record with a sterling 3:52.05. That swim cleared the 3:52.19 clocked by China's Zhao Jing (58.98), Chen Huijia (1:04.12), Jiao Liuyang (56.28) and Li Zhesi (52.81) during the 2009 World Championships during the height of the techsuit era. Notably, it also bested the American record of 3:52.36 posted by Natalie Coughlin (59.12), Soni (1:04.72), Vollmer (55.74) and Franklin (52.79) at the 2011 World Championships. The Australian Olympic record of 3:52.69 from 2008 also tumbled in the process.
“Each [world record] is different and unique, and this one was really special,” Soni said. “To share it with Dana and Allison and Missy was just incredible. Last year we were so close in Shanghai, to finally get it this year wrapped up the meet so perfectly for the USA women's team.”
The win completed an unprecedented seven-event haul for Franklin. She finished her maiden Olympic outing with four gold medals, and a bronze for a total of five. She also took fourth and fifth, finaling in every single event she contested. With her four gold medals, Franklin ties Amy van Dyken for second on the list of most gold medals won by a female swimmer at one Olympics. Van Dyken won four gold in 1996 (50 free, 100 fly, 400 free relay, 400 medley relay). The standard is still held by East Germany's Kristin Otto, who went 6-for-6 in Seoul in 1988, winning the 50 free, 100 free, 100 fly and 100 back, in addition to the 400 free relay and 400 medley relay. Notably, there was no 800 free relay for women in 1988, which Otto would likely have swum, as she used to hold the world record in the 200 free.
Otto and Natalie Coughlin each won the most medals of any kind in one Olympics among women, collecting six each: Otto in 1998 and Coughlin in 2008.
“I honestly couldn't think of a better way to end it, that was so perfect in every way. It was the most fun relay I've ever been on, these relays have been so exciting. Every single team in the ready room tonight was laughing and joking,” Franklin said. “I am going to miss this so much. I'm really excited to meet up with my family and explore London a little bit, but I'm so sad it's all over. I've learned so much from this experience and I can't wait to take that home with me.”
Soni finished with three medals this week, including two gold, for a career tally of six Olympic medals (three gold). Vollmer went three-for-three in gold this week, and now has four Olympic golds in her career, adding to her 800 free relay victory in 2004. Schmitt also won her third gold this week, and went five-for-five in her events when it came to winning a medal of any kind. She also took a silver and a bronze. She now has six Olympic medals on her resume, including a bronze in the 800 free relay in 2008.
Australia's Emily Seebohm (59.01), Leisel Jones (1:06.06), Alicia Coutts (56.41) and Melanie Schlanger (52.54) took silver in 3:54.02 for the Aussie's fifth straight medal in the event. They won in 2004 and 2008, and took second to the U.S. in 1996 and 2000. With the silver, Jones ties Ian Thorpe for the most medals by an Australian swimmer. While Thorpe collected his haul of five gold, three silver and one bronze across two Olympiads (2000 and 2004), Jones won three gold, five silver and one bronze in four Olympics, starting with two silvers in 2000.
Japan's Aya Terakawa (58.99), Satomi Suzuki (1:05.96), Yuka Kato (57.36) and Haruke Ueda (53.42) finished third in 3:55.73 for Japan's second medal ever in the event. It took bronze in 2000 behind the U.S. and Australia.
“Our aim was to win a medal in this relay. We set this goal a long time before this Olympic Games,” Terakawa said. “We expected a close race but we swam as we thought we would. It is a wonderful achievement.”
Russia (3:56.03), China (3:56.41), The Netherlands (3:57.28), Denmark (3:57.76) and Great Britain (3:59.46) comprised the rest of the championship heat.
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