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By John Lohn
LONDON, July 29. SO much is made, and rightfully so, of the pool power demonstrated by the Americas and Europe. Of the 32 Olympic events, the world record belongs to an individual or relay from those regions of the world in 24 disciplines. Through one day of Olympic action, however, the most noise has been made by the Pacific Rim.
It was a banner day for that region on Saturday, with half of the 12 medals awarded going to athletes from the Southern Hemisphere. Highlighting the way were three victories, including a pair from China. While Ye Shiwen delivered the first world record of the London Games in the 400 individual medley, Sun Yang just missed out on a global standard en route to gold in the 400 freestyle. Meanwhile, Sun was followed to the wall by South Korea's Tae-Hwan Park, the defending champion in the event, and Ye was joined on the podium by teammate Li Xuanxu in the bronze-medal slot.
Adding to the festivities, the quartet of Alicia Coutts, Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger powered Australia to the gold medal in the 400 freestyle relay, a triumph which ended the Netherlands' reign as titlist at the past three major international competitions. Oh, and for good measure, Japan's Kosuke Hagino claimed bronze in the men's 400 individual medley.
It would be one thing if the Pacific Rim, with a rich history, relied on one or two countries for its medal haul. That wouldn't be too impressive. But with four countries getting into the medal mix, it says even more about the region and its standing on the global stage. It will be interesting to see, as the competition unfolds, which regions claim the most medals. Currently, the Pacific Rim holds a one-medal lead on the Americas, with Europe checking in with just one medal.
**Just because Ryan Lochte didn't participate in the prelims of the 400 free relay, that doesn't mean he's out of equation for the championship final. The United States coaching staff will have some tough decisions to make for the evening session, including whether to use Lochte. In the morning, the foursome of Jimmy Feigen (48.49), Matt Grevers (47.54), Ricky Berens (48.52) and Jason Lezak (48.04) went 3:12.59.
In the medal round, the Americans figure to use Michael Phelps, Cullen Jones and Nathan Adrian for three of the legs. The question is whether Lochte gets a lot, or whether the fourth position goes to one of the guys from the morning heats. Grevers certainly made a case for inclusion.
“There is some talk about it, but at the end of the day, it is the coaches' decision,” Lochte said. “They are going to put the best four guys they think are right. I just have to wait and see if they put me on or not.”
**The pursuit of individual medals by Missy Franklin got under way on Day Two and the American star is going to have a tough foe in Australian Emily Seebohm in the 100 backstroke. Coming off a bronze medal as a member of the United States' 400 freestyle relay, Franklin entered the Olympics as the favorite to win the backstroke events.
However, based on the way Seebohm looked in the preliminaries, grabbing the gold medal won't be an easy task for Franklin. Riding the wave created by her country's winning effort in the 400 free relay, Seebohm scared the world record in the 100 back, clocking 58.23, just off Gemma Spofforth's world record of 58.12 from the tech-suit era.
**Although she dominated her heat, defending champion Rebecca Adlington barely eked into the final of the 400 freestyle, taking the eighth and final spot. After her prelim effort, it looked like Adlington would easily advance, but sometimes racing in the first of the circle-seeded heats is a scary proposition. It wasn't until about 10 minutes after her race that Adlington was assured of moving on.
Racing out of Lane Eight in the final, Adlington will try to repeat against one of the deepest fields in any event. With the British crowd behind her, Adlington will duel with the likes of Frenchwoman Camille Muffat, who has been superb all year, along with Italy's Federica Pellegrini and American Allison Schmitt.
**Once again, a very disappointing spectator turnout. Not only are there numerous empty seats in the higher-priced sections, including some places with five and six open spots in a row, the lower-priced seats are also not at capacity.
**Although American Brendan Hansen qualified for the final of the 100 breaststroke, not many comeback stories have panned out this year. Most notably, there was the failure of Ian Thorpe to qualify for the Australian Olympic Team, the five-time Olympic gold medalist not even close in his pursuit of a London berth.
Another comeback fizzled out in this morning's prelims when France's Laure Manaudou took to the blocks for the 100 backstroke. The 2004 bronze medalist in the event, Manaudou was 22nd in 1:01.03 and did not advance to the semifinal round.
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