German swimmer gatecrashes US victory parade

August 15th, 2008 - 7:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 15 (DPA) Germany’s Britta Steffen gatecrashed an American victory parade Friday as she took the women’s 100m freestyle-the only non-American to win a gold medal in the Olympic swimming competition on the day as Michael Phelps, Rebecca Soni and Ryan Lochte all swam world records. Superstar Phelps set the benchmark for overall medals a little bit higher when he won his sixth gold medal of the competition and his 12th gold overall, to go three clear of four athletes with nine all-time Olympic golds.

Phelps took his his world record tally to six final with his victory in the men’s 200m individual medley in a time of 1 minute 54.23 seconds.

Lochte won the men’s 200m backstroke in a world record time of 1:53.94 — just 20 minutes before winning bronze in the 200 IM - while Soni took the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:20.22 seconds, also in world record time.

Steffen took a gold with a remarkable comeback that saw her win after lying just eighth at the turn as she managed to overtake the leading Australian Lisbeth Trickett with the last touch, beating the world record holder by just 0.04 seconds. Third place went to American Natalie Coughlin in 53.39 seconds. It was the first swimming medal for Germany in the Beijing Water Cube and the country’s first Olympic swimming gold since Barcelona 1992 when Dagmar Hase won the women’s 400m freestyle. In the men’s 200m IM, the medals went to the same swimmers who also stood on the podium in the same order for the 400m IM, with Phelps being followed by Hungarian Laszlo Cseh and Lochte. Cseh’s time of 1:56.52 beat Lochte by just one hundredth of a second.

Phelps broke his own world record of 1:54.80 that he established at the US trials last month. “I just wanted to step on it in the first 50m a little bit and try to get out to an early lead. “I knew that it was a hard double for Ryan (Lochte). I knew that if I got a big enough lead in the first half I thought I could hang on and that’s all I wanted to do.”

The 23-year-old later qualified for his seventh final in the last event of the day when he had the second-fastest time in the 100m butterfly. Phelps’ swam a 50.97, while Milorad Cavic was just 0.04 seconds faster.

Jason Dunford of Kenya also qualified for the final with the fifth-fastest time of 51.33.

In the women’s 200m breaststroke, Soni was too strong for Jones as she beat the Australian 1.83 seconds.

Both swimmers were under the previous best mark set by Jones in Melbourne two years ago.

Third place went to Norwegian Sara Nordenstam, who swam a European record in 2:23.02.

Soni said that she felt just great. “It’s been a long road to get here. I can’t believe what just happened. I’ve won a gold medal. “I was nervous all day yesterday and this morning, but when I walked out the nerves passed. It was great.” In the men’s 200m backstroke, Lochte won his first individual Olympic gold medal as he beat 100m backstroke champion Aaron Peirsol, with whom he shared the world record going into the swim. Lochte’s world record time of 1:53.94 was enough to beat Peirsol by 0.39 seconds. The previous record stood at 1:54.32. Russian Arkady Vyatchanin established a European record for the bronze medal in 1:54.93.

Lochte, who is equally at home on a surfboard and a skateboard as he is in the water, shared his secret for success with bemused journalists after the race.

“I have been eating McDonald’s here virtually for every meal. I think that has helped out.”

He admitted that-unlike most other top athletes-he did not take his eating habits too seriously. “Nutrition is probably the last thing on my mind. I pretty much eat anything I want and that tastes good.”

In the men’s 50m freestyle semi-finals Brazilian Cesar Cielo showed that he is the man to beat as he qualified for the final with the fastest time of 21.34, breaking the Olympic record he held for a few minutes on Thursday by 0.10 seconds.

There was an upset in the women’s 200m backstroke semi-final as France’s Laure Manaudou, who was considered as one of the favourites, failed to qualify for the final as she managed only the 14th fastest time in 2:12.04, well off the pace set by Zimbabwean Kirsty Coventry, who won her heat in 2:07.76.

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