Olympic Throwback: Allison Schmitt and Her Tour De Force in 200 Freestyle At London Games (Video Link)


Great Races: Allison Schmitt and Her Tour De Force in 200 Freestyle At London Games

Sometimes, great races are defined by down-to-wire finishes, where miniscule differences in time can separate a championship celebration from disappointment. In the case of our latest installment of the Swimming World series, Great Races, we look at a performance that was anything but close. Rather, it was the definition of a rout.

Given the number of outstanding performances delivered at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, it is difficult to identify one effort above all else. Yet, an argument can certainly be made for what American Allison Schmitt produced in the final of the 200-meter freestyle. Simply, Schmitt put together a one-woman show.

If the battle for gold in the 200 free was supposed to feature a duel between Schmitt and Frenchwoman Camille Muffat, as was the case in the 400 freestyle, that showdown never materialized. In the longer distance, Muffat, who tragically died in a helicopter crash in 2015, earned the gold medal over Schmitt by a margin of 4:01.45 to 4:01.77. Muffat notched an Olympic record while Schmitt set an American record.

In Part II of their London rivalry, Schmitt commanded the race from the first turn and left the field fighting for the silver and bronze medals. En route to gold, Schmitt clocked an eye-popping 1:53.61, a mark that remains dazzling more than a decade after it was produced.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

At the first turn, Schmitt sat in fourth place, her time of 27.18 just behind the leading 27.02 of countrywoman Missy Franklin, the 27.13 of Russian Veronika Popova and the 27.15 of Muffat. But by the time the women surfaced, it was Schmitt who was in front, and her advantage increased with every stroke. Blasting a second-lap split of 28.20, Schmitt had opened up a lead of nearly a second at the midpoint of the race and she was in front of Muffat by 1.57 seconds at the 150-meter mark. A closing split of 29.26 enabled Schmitt to touch in 1:53.61, almost two seconds clear of the 1:55.58 of the Frenchwoman. Australian Bronte Barratt claimed the bronze medal in 1:55.81, with Franklin a hundredth back in fourth. Schmitt’s margin of victory, 1.97 seconds, is the largest in event history at the Olympics.

After touching the wall without company, Schmitt turned to the scoreboard and thrust her arm in the air. A huge smile crossed her face and remained as the American digested her performance. At the time, the only performance faster was the world record of 1:52.98, which Italian Federica Pellegrini managed at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, where the technology of suits took precedence over the skill of athletes.

Schmitt’s victory gave her a full collection of medals in London, as she previously won bronze as a member of the United States’ 400 freestyle relay and captured silver in the 400 freestyle. She later added two more gold medals for her efforts on Team USA’s winning squads in the 800 freestyle relay and 400 medley relay.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Schmitt said. “I couldn’t see anything other than the racer next to me, so I didn’t know where I was or what the time was. I just tried to keep focused and to keep calm. (Michael Phelps) and I were joking before the race, and he said as soon as you get on the blocks, it’s time to start focusing. I got a whole collection of (medals) now. Right now, they’re somewhere in my room, a secret place. I kind of stashed them.”

Here is a link to Schmitt’s sensational performance.

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Guimaraes Cayley
Guimaraes Cayley
1 day ago

Schmitt’s race was amazing. I was heartbroken for Franklin.

I might be reading too much into it, but you can’t take away Pellegrini’s talent. Yes, she was fastest with the suit. BUT, she was a force in both the 400 and the 200, for a long time. She certainly wasn’t a fluke.

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