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SHANGHAI, China, July 24. IN a battle of the top two sprint countries in the world, The Netherlands came out on top of the United States in the women's 400 freestyle relay at the FINA World Long Course Championships this evening.
The Netherlands' foursome of Inge Dekker (54.91), Ranomi Kromowidjojo (53.26), Marleen Veldhuis (53.33) and Femke Heemskerk (52.46) defended their world title with a 3:33.96, bettering the textile best of 3:35.11 posted by the U.S. at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships last summer. The time came up short of The Netherlands' epic world record of 3:31.72 clocked at the end of the techsuit era at the 2009 World Championships in Rome.
Heemskerk overtook the U.S., which had led throughout the first three legs. Natalie Coughlin (54.09), Missy Franklin (52.99), Jessica Hardy (54.12) and Dana Vollmer (53.27) combined to take silver in 3:34.47, just off the American record of 3:34.33.
Coughlin's silver gave her a 16th World Championship career medal, putting her atop the all-time rankings. She had been in a tie with USA's Jenny Thompson and Australia's Libby Trickett at 15.
Germany's Britta Steffen (54.51), Silke Lippok (54.17), Lisa Vitting (53.85) and Daniela Schreiber (53.52) earned bronze with a 3:36.05.
China (3:36.36), Australia (3:36.75), Canada (3:38.42), Japan (3:39.55) and Denmark (3:39.74) rounded out the rest of the championship field.