Olympic Games, London, Day 5 Finals
Women's 200 Butterfly Final
Chinese world champion Jiao Liuyang shadowed Mireia Belmonte as the Spaniard made her move down the third length - and then brought down a pile-driver of a last-lap on everyone's head on her way to a 2:04.06 Olympic record victory 1.19 sec up on next best.
Belmonte hung on for the silver in 2:05.25, having endured an experience that she may well wonder at in the calm of days beyond the Games: 0.84sec ahead of Jiao at the last turn, she was beaten by 1.19sec, translating to another killer stat from the China squad. Jiao swam 2.03sec faster than Belmonte down the last 50m lap - and 1.19sec quicker than Japan's Natsumi Hoshi (JPN), third in 2:05.48.
Just a question of pace, Jiao having got it right? Well, not really. Liu Zige, the defending champion who finished last in 2:07.77 after her form, in contrast to her teammate, deserted her down the last length, had held the swiftest home-coming split ever, a 31.61 on the way to the other-worldy shiny suit world record of 2:01.81 in 2009. Jiao: 31.31. Average for rest of world-class final: 33.36.
Look at the difference between today, Shanghai and the rest of the field:
That last one represents the closest split to Jiao's on the last length.
Jiao, who turns 21 next week, took silver behind Liu Zige in 2008 and said tonight that she almost quit the sport after fitness and attitude issues. "I thought about giving up, the most difficult time for me was in 2009," she said. "I wasn't in my best condition, mentally I wasn't that strong and I didn't always agree with my coach, so I had to change my technique."
"Four years ago I tried to catch Liu Zige but I failed, this time I was able to catch her. That was the difference. At the world championships, I said if she (Liu Zige) failed, I would get the gold, if I failed she would get the gold," added Jiao.
Missing out on the top spot at a home Games had made her redouble her efforts, said Jiao. "Maybe because I did not win four years ago, it made me more consistent in my training, it kept me going," she said.
Just locked out of the medals by just 0.03sec was American Kathleen Hersey, on 2:05.78. An astonishing result given the roller-coaster she has been on.
Hersey, adopted by Regina and wheelchair-bound Brian Hersey when she was just three days old, lost her mother last year. There was, she said "a unique kind of pressure" that came with her loss and and emotions. "It is very unique the situation our family has been in this year. So just to be here is an accomplishment," said Hersey.
Heading into the final, Hersey thought of her mother. "I felt my mum going into the second wall and I felt her all throughout the day," said the swimmer. Her father, a financial consultant who was confined to a wheelchair in the 1980s after a spinal cord aneurysm, was also in her thoughts: "My father and my uncle, who lives in England, were actually here tonight. Having that family support is really helpful and comforting."