By John Lohn
BEIJING, China, August 17. AS expected, Australia stormed to the gold medal in the women's 400 medley relay, setting a world record in the process. With four superb legs, the Australians were pegged as the favorites for gold long before the Beijing Games. And, they upheld their end of the bargain.
The quartet of Emily Seebohm, Leisel Jones, Jessicah Schipper and Libby Trickett combined for a time of 3:52.69 to destroy the former world mark of 3:55.74, set by the Aussies at last year's World Championships. Australia needed that world record as the United States also went under the former mark for silver in 3:53.30.
After Seebohm jumpstarted the Aussies with a backstroke split of 59.33, Jones unleashed a 1:04.58 clocking for the breaststroke. Schipper followed with a butterfly leg of 56.25 and Trickett closed the door by clocking 52.53 on the freestyle anchor. The Australians also won gold in the event at the Athens Games.
En route to silver, the United States received an American-record leadoff from Natalie Coughlin (58.94) on the backstroke leg. Rebecca Soni contributed a 1:05.95 effort for the breaststroke and Christine Magnuson added a 56.14 split on the butterfly. Dara Torres, coming off a silver medal in the 50 free, closed in 52.27.
The Chinese quartet of Zhao Jing, Sun Ye, Zhou Yafei and Pang Jiaying took the bronze medal in 3:56.11, an Asian record, and Great Britain set a European record of 3:57.50 for fourth place. Russia was fifth in 3:57.84 and Japan was sixth in 3:59.54. Canada took seventh in 4:01.35 and Sweden was disqualified for an early takeoff on an exchange.