Olympic Swimming Records Smashed, Hopes Dashed

Play associated audio

United States' Dana Vollmer poses with her gold medal for the women's 100-meter butterfly swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park in London.
(AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
United States' Dana Vollmer poses with her gold medal for the women's 100-meter butterfly swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park in London.

The opening weekend of the Summer Olympics was marked by highs and lows, of course, and the swimming pool had its share of both. World records, a stunning loss and a medal for the home team — and that was all in just one afternoon.

Before American Dana Vollmer answers how a 55.98-second 100-meter butterfly — the fastest time ever, and worth a gold medal — feels, consider this: Vollmer was diagnosed as a teenager with two life-threatening heart conditions that prompted her mom to carry a defibrillator to Dana's races.

The heart problems were fixed, but Vollmer had to battle tons of injuries. She won a relay gold medal at the 2004 Olympics but then failed to qualify for the games in 2008. Now, after what Vollmer calls a long journey, there she was Sunday night. Asked, "How does it feel?" she choked out: "It's cool."

That was American Cullen Jones' attitude as well, after he and his teammates won silver in the men's 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay.

"Since I've looked at my Twitter, we've made everyone happy," he said. "We've made people proud."

That was the best "half-full" answer of the night, because — and, yes, it's awful to say this because all medals are great — the U.S. relay team didn't win silver as much as it lost gold. The Americans were big favorites, with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte on the team.

Lochte, swimming the anchor leg, made the turn and headed for home with a good lead. But French anchor Yannick Agnel caught him and touched the wall first. Lochte, who put his early stamp on the games the night before with a dominating win in the 400 individual medley, didn't speak to reporters afterward, but Jones did: "He was beating on himself," Jones said of Lochte. "I mean, once he heard his time, he was actually, I think, a lot better with it. Because he thought he swam a lot slower than that, I think."

The mostly British crowd at the aquatics center snapped fully to attention on the eighth and final lap of the women's 400-meter freestyle race. England's Rebecca Adlington, the 400 and 800 defending Olympic champ, was powering to the finish. Would Adlington win Great Britain's first gold medal of the games? No, she won bronze. But the crowd kept on roaring. After the race, a frizzy-haired Adlington talked about the expectations of being on the host country's team.

"Yeah, it's pressure, but at the same time it's been support," she said. "It's just them saying good luck. They don't mean 'you better get a gold medal.' ... And it shows in the crowd's reaction there when I got a bronze, and I can't wait to go to medals — if I can just find a hairbrush!"

She found one and tamed her curls before the medal ceremony. Now, if she can tame her opponents in Friday's 800 freestyle, her best race, team Great Britain can cross that very big to-do off its list — unless someone else wants to win gold before her.

Anyone?

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Chinese Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Restricted To 20-Day U.K. Visa

Ai says he was denied a six-month visa because U.K. officials said he didn't list a criminal conviction in his application. Ai was imprisoned in China, but he notes he was never charged with a crime.
NPR

Humans Aren't The Only Ones To Go Ape Over Diets: Chimps Detox, Too

A group of Ugandan chimps has found a great way to boost their mineral intake and neutralize bitter compounds in their diet: by eating clay.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - July 31, 2015

Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

NPR

Debris Found In The Indian Ocean May Be From Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet

Investigators believe a piece of debris found on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean could be from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in March 2014.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.