Day 5 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai
Women's 200m butterfly
Silver medallist in Beijing at a home Games three years ago, Jiao Liuyang (CHN) stepped up to gold at home in Shanghai on 2:05.55, while heading into her own home Olympics, Ellen Gandy (GBR) took silver in 2:05.59, ahead of Beijing hero Liu Zige (CHN), on 2:05.90, that locking out Natsumi Hoshi (JPN) by 0.01sec.
The podium placers' splits tell the take of a tight race, one that ended with all home inside 1.1sec, with defending champion Jessica Schipper (AUS) and fastest qualifier Jemma Lowe (GBR) sharing seventh place in 2:06.64, 0.74sec from Liu's bronze.
How the race to the podium panned out:
Gandy, sixth and the half-way mark and fourth at the last turn, looked powerful on the last lap as she challenged the Chinese pair who had led from go until about 20m, for Liu, and 10m, for Jiao, from the end. It looked to all the world as though the Melbourne-based challenger coached by Rohan Taylor would stop the clock first but Jiao refused to yield and the timing was against the European bronze medal winner.
Gandy had to glide in to the wall on her last stroke as Jiao lunged but while that may well have cost the teenager the crown, it saved a place on the podium that would surely have been lost had she taken another short stroke: Liu clocked 2:05.90 to grab bronze 0.01sec ahead of Japan's Natsumi Hoshi in a blanket finish, Gandy's roommate and fellow Smart Track squad member with Lowe just 0.74sec away from Liu but in shared seventh with defending champion and Olympic bronze medallist Schipper.
Before booster bodysuits came along in February 2008, Schipper had held the world record at 2:05.40. It had taken 30 years to slice 2sec off a global standard set in 1979 by Mary T Meagher, the legendary charge of Dennis Pursley, now Britain head coach. By October 2009, Liu had left the mark at 2:01.81, faster than the speed of a young Spitz - but then he was wearing briefs at the time and had yet to grow anti-streamlining facial hair...
There was no word from the champion immediately after the race.
Liu Zige, however, told reporters: "I had a quite good performance. I’m not in a very good shape these days so I am happy with the bronze. I need to spend some time to make a good plan to change my skills. We haven’t yet found a suitable way with my coach to improve on my skills."
Gandy said: "I was really, really nervous just because I knew I had it in me. I needed to get it out and just keep my nerves down. I'm just so happy."
The Rohan Taylor-trained teenager based in Melbourne added: "I was strangely calm and nervous at the same time because I knew what I needed to do and I'd rehearsed it so many times. I just needed to get in and do it and I feel a lot better as soon as I dive in, that's when all the nerves go."
Gandy has steadily improved since the last World Championships, when she admittedly "fell apart" after heading into Rome at the top of the rankings. Last year saw the former Beckenham swimmer claim three Commonwealth medals as well as European bronze over 200m.
On what Australia brings to her programme, she said: "I don't think there is a magic formula. I think I've grown up as a swimmer and as a person. I'm really close to my coach and I completely trust him with the programme."
Significant splits compared
History in the making:
From the archive:
Brown Deer, Wisconsin, is to Mary Terstegge Meagher Plant what the moon was to Neil Armstrong. It was there, at the US national championships, that the 16-year-old American went where no woman had been before over 100m and 200m butterfly. So giant were the leaps she took on August 13 (2:05.96, 200m) and 16 (57.93, 100m), 1981, that both world records survived for more than 18 years. She won two world titles, one over 100m (1982) and the other over 200m (1986).