Farewell old man, and hello to a bright young future. That was the British story here at the Water Cube as Mark Foster, 38, splashed out of his fifth and final Olympic Games at the first hurdle then Rebecca Adlington produced her latest stunning swim to qualify in first place for Saturday's 800m freestyle final.
The 19-year-old from Mansfield, who sensationally won gold earlier this week in her “lesser” event, the 400m freestyle, clocked an Olympic record in the 800m, 8min 18.06sec. It was the second fastest time ever. Only America's Janet Evans, in 1989, has gone quicker, and that record is the longest standing world mark in swimming.
Team GB will have a second 800m finalist, Cassie Patten, who was eighth quickest in the heats, and both women's hopes will be buoyed because America's Kate Ziegler, previously the second fastest ever over 800m and a hot tip for a medal here, failed to make the final.
"I didn't expect to do that time at all,” Adlington said. “My aim was to improve on what I did at the trials and I did that so I*m happy. I knew it was going to be a fast race so I knew I couldn't afford to ease back.”
Patten's best event and main priority here is the 10km open water swim next week. “So to come out here and make the final is pretty good,” she said. “I've taken four seconds off my PB after taking six or seven off just to make the Olympics and if you said to me a year ago I was going to be in an Olympic final I would have said: 'Whatever'.”
Adlington has history in her sights. No British woman has ever won two swimming gold medals, let alone in one Games.
Foster finished sixth in his heat in 22.35sec, which was good enough only for 23rd place overall, meaning he missed the semis. His reaction time to the starting signal was a poor 0.85sec, slower than anyone who finished in the top 40 places.
"In the warm up I felt rubbish, I did a couple of sprints and felt amazing so I thought it was going to be brilliant then I dived in and felt awful again," said sprinter, a short-course specialist but also twice an Olympic finalist.
"I don't have any excuses . . . it's gutting, and I'm annoyed that I'm not going back out there because it's what I enjoy."
Foster has already had one retirement and one comeback so was reluctant to say he was now retiring again, but this was his last Games. “It's a long way to come for 20-odd seconds. The highlight of my Games was carrying the flag around at the opening ceremony. Swimming is not the be-all and end-all of my life.”
The big international story in the pool was China winning a first gold when Liu Zige smashed Jessica Schipper's world record in the 200m butterfly to finish ahead of compatriot Jiao Liuyang in 2min 4.18sec.Reuse content