Records fall at the Aquatics Centre

A night to remember for France who beat an all-star USA team in the 4x100 freestyle metre relay to claim gold.

    Records fall at the Aquatics Centre
    Yannick Agnel, swimming the anchor leg for the French, reeled in Ryan Lochte on the last lap to win gold for France in three minutes, 09.93 seconds [EPA]

    So much for all those dire predictions of records set during the high-tech bodysuit era standing for decades.

    They are falling quickly at the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London.

    American Dana Vollmer took down another record in the 100-metre butterfly Sunday night, then Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa beat another in the 100 breaststroke - denying Japan's Kosuke Kitajima an Olympic threepeat.

    After the second night of the London Games, three world records have already been set. And they're just getting warmed up.

    Muffat win

    Camille Muffat of France also won gold in a riveting 400 freestyle duel with American Allison Schmitt, the two virtually stroke for stroke the entire way. Muffat held on to win by about half a stroke with an Olympic-record time, while Schmitt settled for silver. Britain's Rebecca Adlington brought out the biggest cheer when she touched third - the home country's first swimming medal of the games.

    France upset favoured Australia and the United States to win the 4x100-metre freestyle relay in the last event of the night. The Americans led all the way until Yannick Agnel pulled ahead of Ryan Lochte in the final lap. France clocked 3 minutes, 9.93 seconds, and the Americans settled for silver in 3:10.38. Russia took bronze in 3:11.41, with pre-race favourite Australia finishing fourth.

    On a night expected to feature a relay duel between the Australians and the Americans, Vollmer got things started with a bang. She was third at the turn but powered to the wall for a time of 55.98 seconds, beating the record of 56.06 set by Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom at the 2009 world championships.

    Not bad for someone who didn't even qualify for the last Olympics.

    "I'm on top of the world right now.'' she said. "I still know I can go faster.''

    Vollmer, who made the Olympics as a 16-year-old in 2004, was a huge disappointment when she failed to make the team in Beijing. She was slowed by injuries and health problems, making her question whether she even wanted to continue competitive swimming.

    But her injuries healed, and a change in diet gave her a new outlook. She came close to breaking Sjostrom's record at the US Olympic trials last month, and set an Olympic record in the semi-finals to come in as the top qualifier.

    Now, she's an Olympic champion.

    "I kept telling myself that my strength is my second 50,'' Vollmer said.

    "I kept really calm.''


    Kitajima was trying to become the first male swimmer to win the same race at three straight Olympics. But, like Michael Phelps the night before in the 400 individual medley, the Japanese star didn't come close.

    Van der Burgh made sure of that, dominating the race almost as soon as his head popped out of the water for the first time. He was comfortably ahead at the turn and blew away the field on the return lap to touch in 58.46, knocking off another of the marks set at the 2009 world championships.

    Brendan Rickard's time of 58.58 was among the astonishing 43 world records established at that meet in Rome, when rubberised suits took the sport to times that bordered on absurd. The suits have since been banned, with some predicting that it might take decades to go faster in textile suits.

    Only two records fell at last year's worlds in Shanghai, but the Olympic meet has already beaten that number.

    Australia's Christian Sprenger took the silver in 58.93, and American Brendan Hansen claimed bronze in 59.49.



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