Rome 2009, Day 8:
Women's 50m freestyle final
Britta Steffen and her Hydrofoil blasted to a 23.73sec world record in the 50m freestyle to repeat her Beijing bonus by adding the 50m freestyle world crown to her 100m title. It was the 42nd world record of the championships.
Imagine that, and not a few weeks ago it could still be read in some quarters that the suits made no difference. Just look at the difference:
The German raced in a straight line with rival until 10m from the wall. It was hard to separate the top six women but with 3m or so to go, it was Steffen who looked to have the better roll, the better balance, a certainty about her. She nailed her finish and claimed the crown ahead of Therese Alshammar (SWE), on 23.88, and a shared bronze for Cate Campbell (AUS) and Marleen Veldhuis (NED), both on 23.99.
"It was a fast race, it was very nice to swim here. I thank God," said Steffen. "The atmosphere and the crowd were fantastic. I dreamt of breaking the world record but I didn't expect it."
Steffen noted the phenomenal triple double that she had just nailed to the mast: 50m and 100m titles at Europeans in 2006, then, after a step back in Melbourne 2007 as Libby Lenton triumphed, both sprint titles at the Olympic Games and the World Championships. And two world records that must be placed in context. 23.73 and 52.07 are way ahead of their time, no question.
The Rome race saw four women go under 24sec. The race was terrific, the times on the clock down to the suits. In fifth was Fran Halsall, of Britain, ahead of Libby Trickett (AUS), defending champion, on 24.19. Six women inside 24.20. Berserk. Amanda Weir (USA) clocked 24.23 and last home was teammate Dara Torres, 42 in a suit, on 24.48.