American Dana Vollmer — who made the U.S. team in Athens as a 16-year-old breakout star in 2004, but then was a disappointment four years later in the trials and didn’t even make the last Olympic team in Beijing — whips her head back and looks toward the sky in celebration after seeing her world record-breaking time of 55.98 she swam Sunday at the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London following the women’s 100-meter butterfly final.
LONDON — So much for all those dire predictions of records set during the high-tech bodysuit era standing for decades.
They’re falling quickly at the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London.
American Dana Vollmer took down another record in the 100-meter butterfly Sunday night, then Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa beat another in the 100 breaststroke — denying Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima an Olympic threepeat.
“I’m on top of the world right now,” Vollmer said. “I still know I can go faster.”
Not even through the second night of the London Games, three world records had already been set.
And they’re just getting warmed up.
Camille Muffat of France also won gold in a riveting 400 freestyle duel with American and former UGA star awimmer Allison Schmitt, the two virtually stroke for stroke the entire way. Muffat held on to win by about half a stroke with an Olympic-record time, while Schmitt settled for silver. Britain’s Rebecca Adlington brought out the biggest cheer when she touched third — the home country’s first swimming medal of the games.
On a night expected to feature a relay duel between the Australians and the Americans, Vollmer got things started with a bang. She was third at the turn but powered to the wall for a time of 55.98 seconds, beating the record of 56.06 set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom at the 2009 world championships.
Not bad for someone who didn’t even qualify for the last Olympics.
Vollmer dropped back her head when saw the time, then broke into a huge smile, slapped the water and pumped her fists.
“I kept telling myself that my strength is my second 50,” Vollmer said. “I kept really calm.”
Vollmer, who made the Olympics as a 16-year-old in 2004, was a huge disappointment when she failed to make the team in Beijing four years ago. She was slowed by injuries and health problems, making her question whether she even wanted to continue competitive swimming.
But her injuries healed, and a change in diet gave her a new outlook. She came close to breaking Sjostrom’s record at the U.S. Olympic trials last month, and set an Olympic record in the semifinals to come in as the top qualifier.
Now, she’s an Olympic champion.
Kitajima was trying to become the first male swimmer to win the same race at three straight Olympics. But, like Michael Phelps the night before in the 400 individual medley, the Japanese star didn’t come close.
Van der Burgh made sure of that, dominating the race almost as soon as his head popped out of the water for the first time. He was comfortably ahead at the turn and blew away the field on the return lap to touch in 58.46, knocking off another of the marks set at the 2009 world championships.
Brendan Rickard’s time of 58.58 was among the astonishing 43 world records established at that meet in Rome, when rubberized suits took the sport to times that bordered on absurd. The suits have since been banned, with some predicting that it might take decades to go faster in textile suits.
Only two records fell at last year’s worlds in Shanghai, but the Olympic meet has already beaten that number.
'Race of the Century' on Monday all the talk after Lochte's flop in the 400 relay finals Sunday
LONDON — It's another "Race of the Century" in the Olympic pool, and this time Michael Phelps isn't even in it.
The 200-meter freestyle final on Monday night features a loaded field, including Sun Yang of China, Park Tae-hwan of South Korea, American Ryan Lochte, Yannick Agnel of France and world recordholder Paul Biedermann of Germany.
Maybe Phelps knew what he was doing when he dropped the event after qualifying in it at the U.S. trials last month.
And Lochte looks like the longest shot for gold in the race that gives him another duel with Agnel, who chased him down on the final lap to help France win the 4x100 freestyle relay on Sunday.
It could still be a big night for the Americans, with teenager Missy Franklin a medal threat in the 100 backstroke, Matt Grevers favored in the men's 100 back, and Rebecca Soni looking to upgrade the silver she won in 2008 to gold this time in the 100 breaststroke.
At the 2004 Athens Games, the 200 free was dubbed the "Race of the Century" due to the presence of Australian Ian Thorpe, Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands, and Phelps. They finished in that order.
Phelps won the race over Park four years ago in Beijing, one of his record eight golds. Now it's up to Lochte to try and keep the title in the U.S.
He failed to do it in a thrilling 4x100 free relay that was the opposite result from Beijing. Four years ago, Jason Lezak ran down Alain Bernard to keep Phelps' record bid on track.
This time, the Americans built a commanding lead over the first three legs. Lochte dove in on the anchor leg with a half-body length lead over the field and was in position to add another gold to his dominating win in the 400 individual medley on Saturday.
But Agnel pulled even with Lochte with 25 meters to go, and the American couldn't hold off the Frenchman.
"I gave everything in the last 50 until he cracked," Agnel said. "In the last 10 meters, I saw that he was really cracking."
Agnel touched in 3 minutes, 9.93 seconds, having gone exactly 1 second faster than Lochte over the last two laps. Lochte and the Americans settled for silver in 3:10.38, while favored Australia didn't even get a medal. Russia took the bronze in 3:11.41, beating the Aussies by 0.22.
"I was just really excited and I think I overswam the first 50 and it hurt me for the last 50," Lochte said. "But we were able to get a medal, so I guess that's good."
He had little experience in the 100 free and had never competed on this relay at the Olympics. But coming off his big win on opening night, Lochte had the hot hand.
"The 100 free, I don't really swim it. I haven't swum it in a long time," he said. "You would think doing distance events, I wouldn't get tired. But sprinting takes a lot out of you."