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W4x200 Free: Crown To US Standard Setters

Jul 28, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 5 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

Women's 4x200m freestyle

The United States dominated the final on the way to taking gold in 7:46.14, Australia getting the edge on China for silver,  7:47.42 to 7:47.66. All three were well inside the best ever seen by swimmers in textile suits. Just as well Italy didn't make teh final: Melissa Franklin (USA) clocked 1:55.06 on the opening leg, a time that would have knocked Federica Pellegrini  for six when she successfully defended her solo 200m crown yesterday. Never mind next year, the prospects of an altered image at London 2012 are unfolding before our eyes.

Hoff recalled the moment she noticed Franklin's split, telling reporters: "I looked around at [Allison Schmitt] and said 'Did she really go 1:55?’ … that really got me going."

Franklin, 15, had already taken bronze in the 50m backstroke by then, and Bob Bowman, coach to Michael Phelps, declared: "Missy is awesome. I think we’ll remember tonight as when it all started. It reminds me of somebody I know."

Franklin, coached by Todd Schmitz, was 14 when she made the US team. "On the first day … she looked at me and said, 'I belong here'." Schmitz told reporters. "I looked at her and said, 'Yeah, you do'." He said that since she was 12 Franklin had set the bar for herself.

She missed the 200m free because of the selection process for the US team, unusually made a year out at Pan Pacific Championships. For Olympic year, it will be back to sudden-death trials. At her first world titles, Franklin said she was "just having the time of my life".

Pellegrini is a swimmer capable of responding to events so no telling what might have happened if Franklin had been in that 200m solo final but here's how the young American's splits compare with the Italian superstar's win last night:

  • Franklin:   27.09; 56.44; 1:25.82; 1:55.06
  • Pellegrini: 27.62; 57.04; 1:26.18; 1:55.58

The result:

  • 1 United States of America (Melissa Franklin, 1:55.06; Dagny Knutson, 1:57.18; Katie Hoff, 1:57.41; Allison Schmitt, 1:56.49) 7mins 46.14secs
  • 2 Australia 7:47.42 (Bronte Barratt, Blair Evans, Angie Bainbridge, Kylie Palmer)
  • 3 China 7:47.66 (Chen Qian, Pang Jiaying, Liu Jing, Tang Yi) 
  • 4 France 7:52.22
  • 5 Hungary 7:52.39
  • 6 Great Britain 7:53.51
  • 7 Canada 7:53.62
  • 8 New Zealand 7:56.55

History in the making: 


  • WR (all suits): 7:42.08 China (Yang, Zhu, Liu, Pang) Rome July 30, 2009
  • WR (textile):   7:46.14 (Franklin, Knutson, Hoff, Schmitt) Shanghai July 28, 2011

World-class stats: 

  • World Record wins: GDR, 1986; USA, 2007
  • Title retained: twice by the USA
  • Biggest margin: US beat Germany by 3.73sec in 2007
  • Closest shave: USA beat Australia by 0.36sec in 2005

From the archive

At Fukuoka 2001 the scoreboard flashed to the tune of controversy: first up, Australia lost the gold (because Petria Thomas leapt into the water to celebrate before Italy had finished racing), then the US lost the gold (the Seiko timing suggested a false-start of the US) and the first British women to take world-title gold celebrated. Protests were rejected but FINA later awarded commemorative gold medals to the USA in recognition that the timing system had been faulty.

The 4x200m relay was transfigured by the non-textile suits era. After Melbourne 2007 world titles, no team had broken 7:50, three had got past 7:55, and the likes of Italy had yet to break 8mins. In 2008, two quartets cracked 7:45, four went inside 7:50, including Italy, and the 7:55.47 world record of the GDR from 1987 slipped from 4th to 10th on the all-time ranking. In Rome 2009, China claimed the crown in a world record of 7:42.08, ahead of 7:42.56 for the USA and 7:45.51 for Great Britain, while Canada's 7:49.14 closed the final. In 2010, no team cracked 7:50, the best the USA on 7:51.21 for the Pan Pacific crown ahead of Australia, on 7:52.64.