Olympic Games, London, Day 2 finals:
Women's 100m butterfly
Dana Vollmer (USA) cracked the 56sec barrier with a 55.98 victory off a 26.39 split. The silver went to Lu Yin (CHN) in 56.87, bronze to Alicia Coutts (AUS), on 56.94. They were the only sub-57sec efforts, Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), a world record holder no more, locked out in 57.17.
"I'm on top of the world right now." Vollmer said. "I still know I can go faster," she said.
Having made her first Olympics as a 16-year-old in 2004, Vollmer had a huge disappointment when she missed the team for Beijing in 2008. Injuries and health problems slowed her down to the point of making her question whether she even wanted to continue swimming.
But recovery and a change in diet gave her a new outlook. She came close to breaking Sjostrom's shiny suit record at the U.S. Olympic trials last month, and set an Olympic record in the semifinals to come in as the top qualifier. The fastest woman consistently this year in this event - she goes home tonight as Olympic champion. "I kept telling myself that my strength is my second 50," she said, "I kept really calm."
The world record had stood to Sjostrom at 56.06, while Vollmer took a giant leap inside the 56.42 at which she had held the textile best for the past month. Vollmer won by a huge 0.89sec.
Inge De Bruijn (NED) is the only champion to have won by more than a second, her Sydney 2000 triumph in 56.61 leaving her 1.36sec ahead of Martina Moravcova (SVK).
Vollmer threw back her head after registering the time, broke into a huge smile, slapped the water and pumped her fists. "I'm on top of the world right now." she said in the mixed zone. "I still know I can go faster."
She made the Games at 16 in 2004 but fell shy of the cut in 2008, coach Teri McKeever helping to keep her in the sport and go from weakness to strength. A new diet and better health were part of the new Vollmer, who in order not to crumple on the way home kept up a mantra of strength in her mind.
"I kept telling myself that my strength is my second 50," Vollmer said. "I kept really calm."
Lu Ying gave China its third podium visit of the meet, the first two golden on day 1, her silver delivered in 56.87. Australia's Alicia Coutts grabbed the bronze in 56.94. In the wake of her teammates' gold medal performances the Chinese medallist was stoic in her reaction. "It's not bad," said Lu, who will not race the 200m here even though she is 2sec faster than reigning champion teammate Liu Zige. "It's the result, more or less, I hoped for. She's [Vollmer] a very competitive and strong swimmer. I still need to work harder to be as strong as she is."
Coutts said: "I've got mixed emotions about the race but I'm really glad to have come away with a medal as I chucked (was sick) in the water with 50 metres to go. I think I could have come away with a silver."
Vollmer's victory extended to 6 out of 15 the number of Olympic titles to have gone the way of the US in this event.