Short Course World Champs, Day 2 Finals: Japan’s Yamada Takes the 800 Free

INDIANAPOLIS, October 8. IN Athens, Japan’s Sachiko Yamada failed to match the expectations her countrymen held for her, but she reigns supreme in the short course 800-meter free, in which she holds the world record (8:13.35). So the 22 year-old distance ace was the overwhelming favorite here.

Tonight, the race went precisely to form. Sixteen year-old Kate Ziegler jumped out into the lead, taking a 1.2-second advantage after 100 meters and extending that to 1.4 seconds with her 2:01.56 at 200 meters, as four other swimmers split 2:03s. Then the Japanese champion began systematically chipping away at her teenage rival’s lead.

Ziegler turned at the halfway mark in 4:07.27, nine-tenths ahead of Yamada. But at the 550-meter turn, Yamada flipped first and steadily moved away, slowly but surely lengthening her margin. At the wall it was Yamada in 8:18.21, with Ziegler second in 8:20.55. Australia’s Melissa Gorman held off teammate Sarah Paton for third in 8:25.38.

An elated Yamada commented: “I’m very happy. I wanted to take it easy the first 100 meters and then put more pressure on my competitors,”

Ziegler, too, was thrilled with her first major international medal: “To do that well, I’m really happy, but man, did it hurt. I always take it out real hard and sprint from the beginning.”