London 2012 Olympics: Rebecca Adlington’s late surge secures bronze
FOR four years Rebecca Adlington has been living with the memory of Beijing and, for the most part, it has been a joyous experience but being a double champion has come with its pressures too.
Just because she won gold back then, she felt that people assumed she would win gold right now. People who meant well but who didn’t fully appreciate how savagely difficult it is to get any Olympic medal, no matter the colour. People who wanted the best for her but who were blissfully unaware of the true danger of Camille Muffat and Allison Schmitt, Lotte Friis and Federica Pellegrini, the elite of the elite standing alongside Adlington on the starting blocks last night.
If she sat at the side of the pool for a month, Adlington probably couldn’t fully articulate how difficult it was for her in this final. This was sporting drama, for sure. It was also the epitome of sporting courage.
Adlington was sixth at the halfway point – and in trouble. Out in front, Muffat of France, the winner, and Schmitt of America, who took silver, were in a race of their own, detached from the rest and awesome. But Adlington had Coralie Balmy, Lotte Friis and the world champion, Pellegrini ahead of her, too.
The only option now was to dig deep and keep on digging. In the last 100m, with the collective heart rate of the Aquatics Centre hitting coronary-inducing levels, Adlington kicked on for bronze. Her last 50m was the most agonisingly painful, but she swam those 50m faster than anybody; 29.66sec was not just Adlington’s fastest 50m of the race but the fastest by anyone, the phenomenal Muffat included. We knew she would find something, but this was something very special.
In the immediate aftermath she did some interviews and couldn’t fight back the tears. No wonder. She was physically and mentally spent, utterly drained by the effort it took and the emotion she felt as the cheers rang in her ears. “I’m crying because it’s so overwhelming, the crowd,” she said. “Twelve years of hard work has gone into that and it’s hard, it was so hard.
“It’s always the 400m that feels tougher than the 800m. I’m so glad I got a medal at a home Games. Not many people can say that. I know so many people wanted me to get the gold but I’m so pleased with that. Everyone has just been so amazing. And these guys [the crowd], it’s amazing the support I’ve had. My followers on Twitter have gone up by 30,000, just being here. There were so many people who wanted me to get gold and I’m sorry I couldn’t do that but I’m so pleased I got a bronze.”
Given what happened in the morning qualifiers this was a major result for Adlington and for Team GB, who are still without the gold that may kick-start things but who will be immensely grateful for the bronze they got here. Adlington, after all, only just made the final to begin with.
To give you a measure how competitive the heats truly were, she won hers and yet still qualified in eighth position. In by the skin of her teeth.
Pessimism surrounded this race from an Adlington point of view. There was an almost resigned air about things in the build-up, an acceptance that Muffat, Schmitt and Balmy and the rest were just too quick. Adlington was nearly two-and-a-half seconds behind Muffat’s time and more than two seconds outside of Balmy who qualified in third. The feeling was that, of course, she would do her damndest to upset the odds but that she would fall short in such company, “There’s always the 800m free” was the gist. “She prefers that anyway”.
So to get a bronze was uplifting and to get it the way she got it was deeply impressive. When she came out for the medal ceremony, Adlington looked composed and refreshed but surely, deep inside, she was anything but. This was not Beijing, but it was another precious Olympic medal for the haul and by winning it she became the first British woman swimmer to win medals at successive Games.
Muffat and Schmitt? Well, their race within a race was absorbing. Muffat, the 22-year-old from Nice and pre-race favourite on the back of her blistering times, her name alongside six of the ten fastest this year, and Schmitt, the formidable American who chased the French swimmer all the way but couldn’t quite catch her.
The French swimmer claimed an Olympic record, Schmitt an Americas record and while Adlington broke no record at all she did leave an indelible mark on this race.
“After this morning I didn’t know what to expect, only qualifying in eighth,” she said. “And so there was no pressure on me at all. I know everyone else wanted to say, ‘Oh you got the gold in Beijing,’ but to me I was not expecting that at all, so I am so, so pleased with that.
“I would have liked to go a tiny little bit faster, and equal what I did in March [4:02.35 at the British Championships], but to be honest – with the whole environment – the emotion can take it out of you a little bit.”
Out of the swimmer and out of the supporters watching her.
• Robbie Renwick reached his second 200m freestyle final, four years after finishing eighth.
The City of Glasgow swimmer narowly failed to reach Saturday’s 400m freestyle final, but was equal sixth in the semi-finals in 1:46.65, with Sun Yang fastest through as he looks for his second Olympic title after his triumph in the 400m last night.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east