By John Lohn
BEIJING, China, August 14. THAT the world record was crushed in the women's 800 freestyle relay wasn't much of a surprise. The team that took the gold and did the most smashing? Well, that's a different story. While four teams went under the former world record in the event, it was Australia which blasted the field.
Benefiting from an opening split of 1:56.60 by double-medley winner Stephanie Rice, Australia registered a time of 7:44.31 to wipe out the 7:50.09 global standard posted by the United States at last year's World Championships in Melbourne. Rice was followed by Bronte Barratt (1:56.58), Kylie Palmer (1:55.22) and Linda Mackenzie (1:55.91).
China, on the way to an Asian record, was second in 7:45.93. The home nation relied on the efforts of Yang Yu (1:56.79), Zhu Qianwei (1:56.64), Tan Miao (1:58.11) and Pang Jiaying (1:54.39) to better the United States, which took the bronze in 7:46.33. The U.S. was led by the foursome of Allison Schmitt (1:57.71), Natalie Coughlin (1:57.19), Caroline Burckle (1:56.70) and Katie Hoff (1:54.73).
Posting a European record of 7:49.76, Italy was fourth in 7:49.76. The Italians went with the quartet of Renata Fabiola Spagnolo (1:58.31), Alessia Filippi (1:56.68), Flavia Zoccari (1:59.80) and Federica Pellegrini (1:54.97). France followed in fifth in 7:50.66 and sixth went to Hungary in 7:55.53. Japan placed seventh in 7:57.56 and Sweden was eighth in 7:59.83.