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W100Free: Another Gold Medal Shared

Jul 29, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 6 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

Women's 100m freestyle

In a nervy final in which the favourites fell off their perch, Jeanette Ottesen (DEN) and Aliaksandra Herasimenia (BLR) clocked 53.45 to share gold, with Ranomi Komowidjojo (NED) taking bronze in 53.66 and her teammate Femke Heemskerk  shared fourth place with Britain's Fran Halsall, on 53.72, both of those locked out slower than they swam in the semi-final yesterday. 

Neither Denmark nor Belarus had won the 100m crown before, while Alena Popchanka was the last Belarus swimmer to win a world swim title, claiming the 200m freestyle in 2003 before becoming a French citizen. The 100m shared gold witnessed the second occasion at these championships on which the title was shared: Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius gave Gaul an historic double victory in the 100m backstroke on day 2.

At the half-way turn, Heemskerk held the lead at 25.44, Herasimenia on 25.49, Ottesen on 25.54 and Halsall on 25.55, with Kromowidjojo seventh in 26.11. The Dutch and the Brit may well reflect on those splits and ask why they did not swim to form and get down to times they had rehearsed many times before. The stuff of world-title battles all the way back to 1973.

Kromowidjojo recovered with a 27.55 homeward split that granted her bronze as Ottesen clawed back a 0.05sec deficit on Herasimenia for shared gold, both with sub 28sec splits. Halsall and Heemskerk tipped over that mark, on 28.17 and 28.28 respectively, their campaigns lost on the way out and the way back.

"I didn’t expect to win the gold. Actually not even to win a medal at all," said Ottesen, while Herasimenia echoed the surprise: "I was focused on my race and did not understand what was happening until I saw the scoreboard."

Commonwealth champion Alicia Coutts (AUS) came home next in 53.81, with Americans Dana Vollmer and Natalie Coughlin closing the final on 54.19 and 54.22 respectively, extending the number of world championships at which Americans have fallen shy of the 100m podium. 

Herasimenia, meanwhile, has been back in the sport for a few years now after having served a two-year ban for a positive steroid test in 2003, the detail norandrosterone and Noretiocholanolone, metabolites of nandrolone, which showed up in out-of-competition testing on March 26, 2003 in Minsk.

The result of the race:

  • 1= Jeanette Ottesen (DEN) 53.45
  • 1= Aliaksandra Herasimenia (BLR) 53.45
  • 3. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) 53.66
  • 4= Francesca Halsall (GBR) 53.72
  • 4= Femke Heemskerk (NED) 53.72
  • 6. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 53.81
  • 7. Dana Vollmer (USA) 54.19
  • 8. Natalie Coughlin (USA) 54.22

The build up:

In 2010, Kromowidjojo (NED) clocked 53.44 in spring but was unable to race in major summer competition after suffering from viral meningitis. The European crown went to Halsall in 53.58 and the Pan Pacific title to  Coughlin in 53.67. At the Amsterdam Cup in March, Heemskerk clocked 53.70 ahead of Kromowidjojo, on 54.00. In the same month, Britta Steffen, Olympic and world champion (2009) made her race comeback in Halle on 55.29, an early hint that the champion intended to defend her crown. It was not to be: in Shanghai she clocked 54.8 in heats and announced her withdrawal from the rest of the meet.

Splits compared:

  • 2006: 25.84; 53.30 (27.46) Britta Steffen (GER) Budapest 2006, European title 
  • 2008: 26.04; 53.12 (27.08) Britta Steffen (GER) Beijing 2008, Olympic title
  • 2009: 25.46; 52.07 (26.61) Britta Steffen (GER) Rome 2009, world title
  • 2010: 25.58; 53.58 (28.00) Francesca Halsall (GBR) Budapest 2010, European title
  • 2011: 25.54; 54.45 (27.91) Jeanette Ottesen (DEN) Shanghai 2011 gold
  • 2011: 27.96; 53.45 (27.96) Aliaksandra Herasimenia (BLR) Shanghai 2011 gold

History in the making:


  • WR (all suits): 52.07 Britta Steffen (GER) Rome, July 31, 2009
  • WR (textile):   53.30 Britta Steffen (GER) Budapest, August 2, 2006 
  • First woman inside 55: Barbara Krause (GDR)* 54.98 Moscow July 20, 1980
  • First woman inside 54: Inge de Bruijn (NED) 53.80 Sheffield May 28, 2000
  • First woman inside 53: No time ever recognised by a swimmer in textile**
  • * - GDR athletes were systematically doped under State Plan 14:25
  • **- Australian Lisbeth Lenton's time of 52.99 was never recognised because she raced in a lane next to Michael Phelps (USA) leading off a mixed relay at the USA Vs AUS duel in Sydney on April 2, 2007.

World-class stats:

  • World Record wins: Le Jingyi (CHN) 1994; Britta Steffen (GER) 2009
  • Title retained: Kornelia Ender (GDR)
  • Biggest margin: Ender beat Shirley Babashoff (USA) by 1.33sec in 1973 
  • Closest shave: Birgit Meineke (GDR) beat Annemarie Verstappen (NED) by 0.08sec in 1978

From the archive:

Of the 29 world records established by Kornelia Ender (GDR) between 1973 and 1976, 14 were set on freestyle and included unprecedented progress in the 100m: from the 58.25 on July 13, 1975, Ender was first to break 58, 57 and 56secs, on her way to leaving the mark at 55.65 when winning the Olympic crown in Montreal on July 19, 1976. She remains the only woman ever to have retained the world title (1973-75). Under State Plan 14:25, steroids were administered to GDR athletes in the 1970s and 80s.

The spectre of the GDR's systematic doping programme haunts the historic medals count in this event: five gold and seven silver medals. Libby Lenton (later Trickett) claimed the 2007 crown for Australia in 53.80, with 54.77 last home. In Rome 2009, Trickett took bronze in 52.93, 0.06sec behind Francesca Halsall (GBR). The crown went to Olympic champion Britta Steffen (GER) in an otherworldly 52.07 world record.