Day 3 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai
Women's 1500m freestyle
Lotte Friis (DEN) added the 30-lap crown to the 800m title she won two years ago in Rome with a dominant 15:49.59 effort of metronomic precision and flare. The silver went to world record holder and former world champion of 2005 and 2007, Kate Ziegler (USA), in a 15:55.60 that spoke volumes about her journey back to the top after the depression of 2008. The third sub-16min effort took bronze, Li Xuanxu's 15:58.02 warmly and loudly received by a crowd of 10,000 and more mostly Chinese fans. Li became the 10th member of the sub-16 minute club.
Friis's race plan and courage paid off: she led from start to finish, a 59.39 first 100m drawing China's Shao Yiwen to a 59.91 with no others cracking the minute. The opening 200m pace of 2:01.83 granted Friis clear blue water and sent a clear message to those in her wash: catch me if you can. By 400m, on 4:08.49, the Danish distance ace was more than 4sec up on Ziegler, with Shao Yiwen of China closest on 4:11.95. An 8:23.94 split that just 0.67sec slower than the time in which she claimed the 800m European crown in Budapest last year, left the rest floundering, Ziegler the only other in the race capable of cracking 8:30, on 8:29.02, China's Li and Shao on 8:31.22 and 8:31.29 respectively.
From 500m out from home, the podium was fixed, Shao dropping away too steadily as the only three in the race maintained their positions, the gap between them almost the same all the way to the end wall.
There's no 1500m in London next year but Friis said: "It's always nice to win a gold medal. It's my personal best (but) I will focus on the 800 next year in London."
The Games start a year tomorrow, Friis, Olympic bronze medallist in 2008 aiming to return to the fray with Britain's Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington over 16 laps. That distance falls Saturday here in Shanghai after Friday morning heats.
The splits compared:
History in the making
From the archive:
The first Japanese Olympic freestyle champion among women, over 800m champion in 2004, Ai Shibata bowed out of the sport in 2008. Her retirement statement reflected the burden and pain she had carried: "My body was yelling out in pain. I realised I had reached my limit. My shoulder and back have been so painful since Athens. The gold medal was a burden. I can't imagine myself swimming at the (London) Olympics four years from now."