By John Lohn
Photos by Peter H. Bick
MONTREAL, Canada, July 29. THE Olympic champion got the job done. Rallying during the last 50 meters, Australia’s Jodie Henry claimed gold in the 100-meter freestyle on Friday behind a performance of 54.18. While the swim was well off her world-record time of 53.52, it easily bested the opposition and further enhanced the reputation of the Aussie star.
Last summer, Henry built her portfolio to impressive heights on the Olympic stage in Athens, as she blasted her competition in the 100 free and anchored a pair of gold-medal winning relays. Here, she turned back a stellar field that included teammate Alice Mills and the United States’ Natalie Coughlin. The American-record holder, Coughlin shared the silver medal with France’s Malia Metella, as both swimmers touched in 54.74.
The United States’ Amanda Weir took fourth place with a mark of 54.77, her slowest swim of the three rounds. Weir popped a 54.49 in the prelims and went 54.61 in the semifinals, times that would have landed her a silver medal in the final. Still, the teenager from Georgia is a bright spot on the American scene and should anchor the U.S. 400 medley relay.
Leading at the 50-meter mark and under world-record pace, the Netherlands’ Marleen Veldhuis faded to fifth place in 54.90, finishing just ahead of Mills, who touched the wall in 54.92. The seventh and eighth spots, respectively, were occupied by Greece’s Nery-Mantey Niangkouara (54.93) and Germany’s Daniela Gotz (55.27).
The performance of Mills was a huge disappointment for the star-studded Aussie women's team. The 18-year-old had been in sensational form coming into this meet and was expected to fully challenge her training partner Henry tonight on the back of her world leading 53.96 this year. However, the effects of being struck down by a fever on arrival in Montreal has obviously drained her resources this week.