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Friis Leap-Frogs Over Olympic Rivals

Aug 1, 2009  - Craig Lord

Rome 2009, Day 7

Women's 800m freestyle final

Roll on 2010? “Yes, definitely,” said the latest Olympic champion to fall under the weight of a bodysuited assault. Where Kirsty Coventry and Michael Phelps managed to step in a LZR and fight back, Rebecca Adlington could not quite manage it, just as Park Tae-hwan had not managed it either. 

The gold went to Lotte Friis (DEN) in 8:15.92, the silver to Joanne Jackson (GBR) in 8:16.66, the bronze to Alessia Filippi (ITA) in 8:17.21, 0.69sec ahead of the Olympic champion and world record holder. 

Before the 800m final, Adlington turned to teammate Jo Jackson and said: “This is the last time we’ll wear suits.” Friends and rivals smiled at each other and then raced in a final full of the difference of the moment. 

To be clear, the Brit lost because she swam slower than she did in Beijing, from the start. She and Romanian Camelia Potec’s R-Evolution were the only fashion-fast suits of 2008 in the race. Of the top five in the race, Adlington and Potec were the only ones not to set best times. They finished 4th and 5th. Who knows whether things would have been the same under different circumstances? No-one - and that’s the point.

The five women swam pratically in a line the whole way but it was Friis who piled on the pressure with 200m to go. Two laps later, Potec had gone, the Brits were hanging on and Filippi was responding to a Roman crowd on its feet. The Italian turned almost level with Friis going into the last length but the Dane found 1.14sec more speed in her X-Glide than Filippi found in her jaked01. Jackson and her Hydrofoil produced the fastest last 50 in the race, 29.17, for the silver, leaving Adlington in her wake, but battling to the end to finish 3.8sec outside the world record she set in Beijing last year.

Friis said: “It’s a dream. It’s not sunk in. In the last 200m I decided to speed up and try to get away. I had no doubt I’d win after the last turn.”

Jackson said: “It was a very tough race. The schedule, with relays, has really taken it out of Becky and me. I’m very happy with that, though. I didn’t expect a silver. It was my last swim of the meet and I felt great down the last 50.”

Filippi said that she was so tired she couldn’t walk. She had hoped to get to the world record, after having passed the 800m on the way to victory over 1,500m in 8:20.   

Adlington said: “That was so tough. Just to come back a year after the Olympics - there's nothing like the Olympics. I really felt the pressure of expectation today. I thought I was coping with it but I'm obviously not dealing with it as well as I thought I would,” said Adlington.