Olympic Games: Swimming: American splash is more of a ripple

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The Independent Online
THE suspicion that everyone in the Olympic pool was going to become throughly sick of listening to the American national anthem this week became less sound last night when only one of the four swimming gold medals ended in red white and blue hands.

The Star Spangled Banner was heard, but received in a slightly bemused manner. Jennifer Thompson and Summer Sanders had been expected to be accepting plaudits on behalf of the land of the free. Instead, Nelson Diebel mounted the 100m breaststroke winner's rostrum at the expense of, among others, Nick Gillingham and Adrian Moorhouse.

Thompson, who had the prospect of winning gold five times during these Games, became the first American to hold the 100m freestyle world record for 61 years when she clocked 54.48sec in March and her progress was almost stately in its margin of superiority, if not its speed, as she set an Olympic mark of 54.69 in the heats.

In the final, however, she was marginally behind China's Yong Zhuang from the start and remained so throughout, failing to overhaul her opponent with a finishing burst as she had done in the morning. Yong, 19, from Shanghai, snatched the Olympic record off her rival with 54.64 and the gold. 'I choked big time,' Thompson said afterwards.

Also choking back the disappointment was Sanders, a 19-year- old Californian nicknamed 'Summer Olympics' by the Americans, so confident were they that she was going to be a dominant force in Barcelona. After the butterfly section of the the women's 400m individual medley, that confidence seemed fully borne out when she took a lead of more than a second over the rest of the field.

She was still ahead after 300m, albeit by a lesser margin, but the freestyle proved her downfall and she was passed by the winner, Hungary's Krisztina Egerszegi, and China's Li Lin in the final 100 metres. Bronze is a more autumnal colour than summer.

Another Olympic record was set in the finals when Evgueni Sadovyi won the men's 200m freestyle in 1:46.70. The 19-year-old, from Volgograd in Russia, was more than 1.5 seconds up after the first 50 metres but was gradually hauled in and appeared to be declining when he turned in second place after three lengths. However, he charged down the final length to pip Anders Holmertz by 0.16 of a second.