2012 London Olympics: Australia Reclaims Women’s 400 Free Relay Gold; Natalie Coughlin Ties for Most Decorated Female Olympic Swimmer

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LONDON, England, July 28. THE foursome of Alicia Coutts, Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger withstood an early lead by the U.S., and overhauled the field down the stretch to reclaim the Olympic gold medal in the women's 400-meter freestyle relay at the 2012 London Olympics.

Coutts (53.90), Campbell (53.19), Elmslie (53.41) and Schlanger (52.65) put together an Olympic-record time of 3:33.15 to capture the relay gold medal. After taking bronze in 2008 to The Netherlands and the United States, Australia returned to the top of the podium like it did when it ended a three-Olympic stretch by the Americans in 2004. The Aussie's time tonight bested the Olympic record of 3:33.76 set by The Netherlands in its 2008 victory.

“When I saw we were in the lead when I got in, I just really put my head down,” Schlanger said. “I want to thank all my followers on Twitter, they have really been supporting me. We love you and we're doing this to make Australia proud.”

The Netherlands nearly pulled a worst-to-first effort, building from an eighth-place turn by Inge Dekker (54.67), with Marleen Veldhuis (53.80), Femke Heemskerk (53.39) and Ranomi Kromowidjojo (51.93) racing into second with a 3:33.79. The Netherlands finished just .64 seconds off the pace posted by Australia.

The U.S., early leaders after legs from Missy Franklin (53.52) and Jessica Hardy (53.53), wound up with bronze after legs from Lia Neal (53.65) and Allison Schmitt (53.54). The team, however, did put together a 3:34.24 to clear the American record of 3:34.33 set by Natalie Coughlin, Lacey Nymeyer, Kara Lynn Joyce and Dara Torres in Beijing.

Neal became the first African-American woman to ever swim in an Olympic final. Meanwhile, Natalie Coughlin, who swam on the preliminary relay, moved into a tie with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated female Olympic swimmers with 12 medals each. Coughlin is now done for the week, and will cheer on the rest of Team USA.

China (3:36.75), Great Britain (3:37.02), Denmark (3:37.45) and Japan (3:37.96) rounded out the championship heat, while Sweden was disqualified due to an early relay takeoff by anchor Gabriella Fagundez.

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