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LONDON, England, July 31. THE figure at the center of much controversy after blasting the world-record in the women's 400-meter IM, 16-year-old Ye Shiwen of China swept the IM events at the 2012 London Olympics with an Olympic record.
Standing third heading into the final 50 meters, Ye blasted a 29.32 final split to win the event in 2:07.57. That performance cleared her Olympic record of 2:08.39 from the semifinal round, which had stood as the overall textile best as well. The time also bettered the Asian record of 2:08.32 set by Qi Hui in October of 2009, moving Ye to fourth all time in the event's history. Ariana Kukors' world record of 2:06.15 from the 2009 World Championships remained on the books.
With the win, Ye equaled Stephanie Rice's IM sweep from 2008, and earned her second Olympic gold medal. She now has three international meet victories on her resume, after winning the 200 IM at the 2011 World Championships last summer.
The pundits have been out in full force either support or attacking Ye this week, some calling her a potential drug cheat due to China's history. The controversy came to a boiling point, with the IOC even coming out in defense of the 16-year-old today.
“I couldn't lose the race,” Ye said. “I didn't expect the others to swim so fast. I was surprised. It's ok, [the negative media coverage] didn't affect me.”
Australia's Alicia Coutts finished second in 2:08.15 to jump to fifth in the all time rankings. The silver is her third Olympic medal of the meet, one of each color. She won gold with the 400 free relay and took bronze in the 100 fly.
“I'm really happy with that swim. It's a massive PB (personal best) for me. The wait is over,” Coutts said. “I knew that Shiwen had a very fast last 50m. But I've put in some seriously hard work. Even if I didn't swim fast enough to get a medal, I wanted a PB.”
USA's Caitlin Leverenz raced to bronze with a 2:08.95 on the back of a dominant breaststroke leg. That gave the U.S. its third bronze in four meets, which also included a silver from Amanda Beard in 2004. The medal is her first at any elite international meet. She did get regional bronze in both IMs at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships.
“I just went into the race knowing that I could be in the hunt for a medal,” Leverenz said. “I'm going to put myself out there and race and give it everything I got, you know this is my one shot, and I did, and I'm really, really happy with how it turned out. I was like overjoyed with emotion when I turned round and saw that I had gotten third and able to get on the medal stand for my country. It was an amazing feeling.
“I knew in order to get a medal I would have to be first at the 150m wall because freestyle is not my strength and I know breaststroke is,” Leverenz continued. “When I turned with those girls I knew I just had to keep holding on, trying not to fall off too much on freestyle. It goes to show I still have some areas I can work on and be even better. [Shiwen]'s an amazing swimmer and she had another great race tonight and the first one to take home two Olympic golds is pretty incredible.”
Defending champ Rice placed fourth in 2:09.55, while world-record holder Kukors took fifth in 2:09.83. Defending silver medalist Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe placed sixth in 2:11.13, while Great Britain's Hannah Miley (2:11.29) and Hungary's Katinka Hosszu (2:14.19) also swam in the finale.
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