France stuns US to snatch relay gold; Cameron van der Burgh wins 100m breaststroke
The atmosphere was charged up to inspire Rebecca Adlington defend her gold medal for Britain, but it was Camille Muffat who won the first gold for France in the women’s 400m freestyle, in swimming at the Olympics on Sunday.
“Being the Olympic champion was the most difficult dream to attain. I knew this year, I was the best, but I didn’t expect to win”, said the 22-year-old from Nice, Camille on winning her maiden Olympic medal with an Olympic record time of 4:01.45.
Camille became the second gold medallist for France in the event, after Laure Manadou in Athens 2004.
“It means a lot. I swam the 400 only for one or two years. I have this race in my heart more than the 200, because of the history of France in this event. I was happy to see Laure watching me swim,” said Camille.
“When I swim I stick to my strategy. I stuck to my plan. Towards the end, I looked but I was not sure. I still cannot believe it,” she said.
Allison Schmitt said she used the enormous support for Rebecca to her advantage. “I definitely used that as energy,” said Allison.
Rebecca herself was philosophical.
“Beijing was an unbelievable experience. I am a different swimmer now. I am older. Gold wasn’t my expectation. It was the people’s expectation. I am more than happy.
Your own goals are very different to what other people want to set for you,” said Rebecca, as she suggested that the good-natured wishes of people sounded as if winning gold was easy.
The combined force of new hero Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps could not stop France from bagging its second gold, ahead of the US. It was a revenge victory for the team that had been beaten by 0.08 seconds in Beijing.
“It is incredible. We were under pressure because we wanted to win for each other. I was convinced of the victory. It is so good to win,” said Amaury Leveaux of France.
“We knew we could do it. We have been thinking about all the efforts of the past few years. It is a team of eight swimmers. So, it is not just the four of us who won,” said Fabien Gilot.
Michael Phelps won his first ever silver medal at the Olympics, to complete the collection of 14 gold and two bronze medals. He moved one step closer to Larissa Latynina’s record of 18 medals in the Olympics.
Lochte had a chance to win it again for the US, but he could not convert the lead into victory.
“The 100m free, I don’t really swim it. I haven’t swum the 100m in a long time. I think I overswam the last 50m. Sprinting definitely takes it out of you. We were able to get a medal. So, I guess, that is good,” Lochte said.
Dana Vollmer of the US won the women’s 100m butterfly with a world record.
Icing on the cake
“Being the Olympic champion is the most important. The world record is the icing on the cake,” said Dana who had undergone a corrective heart surgery in 2003.
“At the trials in 2008, I didn’t know I would rediscover my love for sport. I was sick all the time and then I found out I had food allergies. I have changed my mental approach and got over my problems with sickness,” revealed Dana.
Silver medallist Lu Ying of China, who trains in Australia, was more revealing about the contrast to the Chinese approach. “In China we are always used to just train, train, train, study, study, study, study, and get some rest. Abroad, after training there is time for study and free time. In other countries they have strength left for other activities.
“The Australians have an enthusiasm for swimming that makes me feel very different. They are not afraid to be too tired for training. They also have fun,” said Lu Ying.
Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa achieved a childhood dream of winning the gold, in the men’s 100 breaststroke, when one of the legends Kosuke Kitajima of Japan failed.
“From a young age we dreamed about becoming Olympic champions. I even had to delete Twitter from my phone because I was getting ahead of myself thinking about it,” said van der Burgh.
“Maybe today it was not his day, but in my eyes he is the greatest breaststroker, I had the honour to swim with,” said the South African.
Brendan Hansen of the US won the bronze, and rated it the best, ahead of his two gold and a silver medal from the previous Games.
“This medal means the most to me. Eight months ago there were around 15 trying to have a comeback and I am the only one here,” he said proudly.