By Swimming World
LONDON, England: TEAM USA reclaimed the women's 800-meter freestyle relay title with the help of a sterling anchor leg from Allison Schmitt at the 2012 London Olympics.
Team USA trailed throughout most of the event with Australia and France exchanging the lead before Schmitt took the water. Schmitt then demolished the field with a 1:54.09 anchor leg as Missy Franklin (1:55.96), Dana Vollmer (1:56.02) and Shannon Vreeland (1:56.85) combined with Schmitt for an Olympic record 7:42.92. That performance blasted the previous standard of 7:44.31 Australia used to win the event in 2008.
"I knew it was going to be close," Schmitt said. "I was just trying to swim my own race and save legs on that first 50m, just like I did last night and bring it home strong for the U.S. I knew it was close, I saw it was neck and neck all race and I just wanted to swim my own race like in the 200m last night. I just wanted to feed off that energy and bring home the gold tonight for the relay. The best thing is to bring home gold for the US. It's my first Olympic gold medal in the relay. The first three ladies had an amazing swim and I just wanted to bring it home for them."
The win also put the title back in American hands with the Stars and Stripes having won four of the five offerings of the event. Team USA also came within a second of the world record of 7:42.08 posted by China at the 2009 World Championships at the height of the techsuit era.
Australia's Bronte Barratt (1:55.76), Melanie Schlanger (1:55.62), Kylie Palmer (1:56.91) and Alicia Coutts (1:56.12) turned in a second place time of 7:44.41 for Australia's fourth medal since first winning bronze in 1996, the first appearance of the event in Olympic history. The Aussies have also won silver in 2000 and gold in Beijing.
"On paper, they were quite a lot faster than us," Schlanger said. "We were lucky to get away with it with the Dutch in the 4x100m but I guess they (USA) were just a bit too strong for us in the 4x200m. It was a little bit disappointing, everyone is here to win but at the same time a silver medal is amazing. I took a lot from that swim."
France's Camille Muffat (1:55.51), Charlotte Bonnet (1:57.78), Ophelie-Cyrielle (1:58.05) and Coralie Balmy (1:56.15) took third with a 7:47.49, while Canada's Barbara Jardin (1:57.96), Samantha Cheverton (1:56.91), Amanda Reason (1:59.32) and Brittany Maclean (1:56.46) missed the podium with a fourth-place 7:50.65.
"This is extraordinary - this is what we wanted," Bonnet said. "We knew that winning the bronze medal would be hard but we fought until the last minute and we all gave our best. I am sharing my room with Camille Muffat and that was a bit frustrating because every night she was asking me when I would get my medal, so today I finally get it. It feels great to be living this as I am only 17 years old. Next year I hope to get a medal in an individual event. Everyone just pushes everyone higher and that is our strength. The boys have more chances to get medals of course but we showed that we were capable of doing it too."
Great Britain (7:52.37), China (7:53.11), Italy (7:56.30) and Japan (7:56.73) rounded out the championship heat. Notable splits from those teams were a 1:57.37 from Ye Shiwen for China, a 1:57.39 from Rebecca Turner of Great Britain, and a 1:57.61 anchor from Federica Pellegrini of Italy.