Olympics, Swimming: Worst to First, Britta Steffen Wins 100 Free in Olympic Record

By John Lohn

BEIJING, China, August 15. SHE was nowhere to be found, not even a blip on the gold-medal radar. At the midpoint of the women's 100 freestyle final, German Britta Steffen was a forgotten athlete, sitting in eighth place and seemingly out of the medal race. One lap later, she was celebrating a gold medal and a comeback surge of spectacular proportions.

The former world-record holder in the event, Steffen clocked 53.12 for her gold, her title arriving on the strength of a back-half split of 27.08, .79 faster than anyone else in the field. Swimming in Lane Seven, Steffen was 26.04 at the 50-meter mark and left for dead. Somehow, though, she turned on the jets – to super speed.

After narrowly squeaking into the final as the eighth seed, and only after a disqualification, Australian Libby Trickett took the silver medal with an outside-smoke performance of 53.16. It was Trickett's second individual medal of the competition, complementing the gold she earned in the 100 butterfly. She was followed in the bronze-medal position by Natalie Coughlin, who equaled her American record with a time of 53.39.

Finland's Hanna-Maria Seppala was the only other woman to break 54 seconds, as she checked in with a time of 53.97. She was followed in fifth place by Denmark's Jeanette Ottesen (54.06) and China's Zhu Yingwen shared sixth with the Netherlands' Marleen Veldhuis in 54.21. Eighth went to Great Britain's Francesca Halsall in 54.29.