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Muffat's Menace For Real; Silver For Schmitt

Jul 29, 2012

Olympic Games, London, Day 2 finals:

Women's 400m freestyle

Camille Muffat became the second French woman ever to win an Olympic title - and the same one at that, after Laure Manaudou in 2004 - with a 4:01.45 Olympic record in a blistering battle with Allison Schmitt (USA), on 4:01.77, and American record.

The bronze went to defending champion Rebecca Adlington (GBR) in 4:03.01, who responded to the crowd volume clearly turned up for what was Britain's first medal in the pool at these Games, and one that augurs well for the defence of her second crown in Beijing four years ago, over 800m, later in the week.

If Adlington's bigger moment may come on Friday, tonight belonged to Muffat and Schmitt - and their coaches, Fabrice Pellerin and Bob Bowman respectively. The warriors of Gaul and America arrived in London with the two fastest and most consistent stack of 400m performances we have ever seen in the event. It showed today in the way the race panned out.

Each time Schitt made a move ahead of Muffat, the Frenchwoman moved back, her splits at the 100s a touch ahead throughout. The rest were off the pace, Adlington the one with the keen edge when it came to the last 100m, just over a minute the fastest in the race - another fact that puts Ye Shiwen's 58.6 Lochte-matching split in the 400m medley into context as the seriously off-the-chart moment of these Games so far. Lotte Friis (DEN) 4:03.98 pipped world champion and record holder Federica Pellegrini (ITA), 4:04.50. 

The splits compared:

  • 57.83; 1:59.50; 3:00.67; 4:01.45 Muffat
  • 58.11; 1:59.88; 3:01.11; 4:01.77 Schmitt
  • 58.97; 2:00.90; 3:02.79; 4:03.01 Adlington

"I'm relieved and happy," Muffat said of winning France's first medal of the meet. "I haven't thought about all the work, I was thinking about the other swimmers and my family. I didn't speak with them a lot as I knew I would be disappointed if I didn't win."

Despite having looked solidly in control from start to finish, she added, "I knew this year I was the best, but I didn't expect to win."

Bronze medallist Adlington made no bones that it's the hardware that counts: "I saw the guys. They were off. I just couldn't keep with them," she said. "To be honest, I am so happy I managed to sneak that medal...another Olympic medal is just unbelievable, and there is not an ounce of disappointment in me."

“I know everyone else wanted to say, 'Oh you got the gold in Beijing,' but to me I was not expecting that at all, so I am so, so pleased with that tonight.”

Clearly overwhelmed by the support she received from the crowd, Adlington fought back tears when describing the pride she felt at her achievement.

“I'm crying because the crowd is so overwhelming,” she said. "Twelve years of hard work have gone into that and it's hard, it was so hard. It's always the 400m that feels tougher than the 800m. I'm so glad I got a medal at a home Games, not many people can say that."