2012 London Olympics: Dana Vollmer Clears 56-Second Barrier, Sets World Record in 100 Fly

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LONDON, England, July 29. SOMEONE finally broke the elusive 56-second barrier, and it proved to be USA’s Dana Vollmer in an inspired final’s swim in the women’s 100-meter butterfly finale at the 2012 London Olympics.

Vollmer backhalfed her way to the world record, flipping third at the 50-meter mark with a 26.39. She powered home, however, to post the first sub-56 second time in history in the event with a 55.98. She also demonstrated remarkable focus after losing her cap down the stretch. Already the textile best holder with a 56.25 during prelims, Vollmer’s time shot past the previous top two times of 56.06 from Sarah Sjostrom and 56.07 from Liu Zige during the techsuit era to put her atop the mountain. With the win, she became the first American to top the women’s 100 fly since Amy van Dyken bested Liu Limin of China, 59.13 to 59.14, in 1996. The gold medal is Vollmer’s first individually. She won a relay gold medal as part of the 800 free relay at the 2004 Athens Games.

“I’m so excited and on top of the world right now,” Vollmer said. “I’ve never had an individual world record and now (a) gold medal. Everything went as I could have wanted. I had a long finish so I could still go faster (in future races).”

China’s Lu Ying, the bronze-medalist in the event at the 2011 World Championships, raced into second with a 56.87, also putting together a backhalf strategy after turning fourth at the 50 with a 26.50. She moved to eighth all time in the event’s history with the performance.

“I expected to be 0.12 seconds quicker,” Lu said. “The first 15m I didn’t swim badly. At the end of the race I swam with all my personal willingness. [Vollmer] is a very competitive and strong swimmer. I still need to work harder to be as strong as she is. Training and the actual race are different. My performance today was good because I didn’t start in a good lane (in the final).”

Australia’s Alicia Coutts had an amazing worst-to-podium finish with a 56.94 after turning deadlast at the 50 with a 26.90. That time matched her previous lifetime best that earned her second in the event at the 2011 World Championships.

“I have got mixed emotions about the race but I am really glad to have come away with a medal as I chucked (was sick) in the water with 50 (metres) to go,” Coutts said. “I think I could have come away with a silver. It doesn’t happen very often but it impacted upon my race. I know [Vollmer] goes out really fast but I tried to stay to my race plan and not get caught up in her race plan.”

World-record holder Sarah Sjostrom could not overcome the field, finishing fourth overall with a 57.17, while Italy’s Ilaria Bianchi finished fifth in 57.27. Denmark’s Jeanette Ottesen Gray paid for an aggressive strategy that had her out in 26.28 before fading to sixth in 57.35. USA’s Claire Donahue (57.48) and Great Britain’s Ellen Gandy (57.76) rounded out the championship heat.