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OMAHA, Nebraska, June 30. A pair of last-ditch efforts to make the Olympic team were successful in the women's 100 free as Jessica Hardy raced to victory and Natalie Coughlin clinched a relay alternate spot at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Hardy, who had her Olympic aspirations dashed in 2008 with a positive test for clenbuterol resulting in a one-year suspension for what later was adjudicated as contaminated supplement use, earned a spot on this year's team with a 53.96 for the win. That performance nearly moved her into the top 10 in the world this year, and gave her a lifetime best. Her previous top time had been a 54.14. Hardy missed making the team earlier in the week with a third-place effort in the women's 100 breast.
Missy Franklin, just 20 minutes after racing in the women's 200 back semifinals, placed second in 54.15 to earn a third individual swim at the London Games. She already won the 100 back, and finished second in the 200 free to Allison Schmitt. She has more in the tank in the event as well with a 53.63 to her credit.
Schmitt came up just a bit short in her bid to be the second person ever to win the 100, 200 and 400 freestyle events in a single Trials with a third-place 54.30. Shirley Babashoff remained the only person to have accomplished that feat as part of five titles in 1976. Schmitt did add a second relay spot to her 200 free, 400 free and 800 free relay duties.
Lia Neal of AGUA snagged the fourth assured relay spot with a 54.33, clipping her personal best of 54.35, for the first Olympic bid of the 17-year-old's career. Neal became just the second female African-American Olympic swimmer. In 2004, Maritza Correia became the first when she qualified for the Olympic squad on the 400 free relay. Correia is now a mother, having had her son Kason with husband Chad McClendon last year.
On the other end of the spectrum, Amanda Weir (54.41) and Natalie Coughlin (54.44) proved that two veterans could get the job done by grabbing the two relay alternate spots. Weir earned another Olympic bid after winning two silvers as a prelim relay swimmer in 2004, while Coughlin made her third Olympic team. Coughlin will look to add to her three gold, four silver and four bronze medals at the 2012 London Games.
Dana Vollmer, who already made the team with a 100 fly win and as part of the 800 free relay, finished out of the 100 free relay spots with a seventh-place 54.61, while Madison Kennedy proved to be the only non-Olympic qualifier in the heat with a 54.83.