Franklin kicks off 8-gold chase
Updated: 2013-07-30 08:12
By Associated Press in Barcelona (China Daily)
Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin react after winning the final of the women's 4x100m freestyle relay in Barcelona on Sunday. Pierre-Philippe Marcou / Agence France-Presse
With Michael Phelps cheering from the stands and a big assist from a teammate, Missy Franklin got off to a thrilling start in her own quest to win eight gold medals at the world championships.
Too bad the US men didn't have Phelps for their relay.
Megan Romano turned in a brilliant anchor leg to ensure Franklin of a gold in the women's 400m freestyle relay on Sunday evening, chasing down the Australians in the last, furious strokes.
Coming off a starring role at the London Olympics, Franklin is now one-for-one in Barcelona.
Seven more to go.
"Oh, my gosh, it was amazing!" said Franklin, who clutched hands with teammate Natalie Coughlin at the edge of the pool as they cheered on Romano. "We knew Megan could do it."
Overall, it was good start for the American team on the first night of swimming at the arena atop Montjuic. Katie Ledecky, still only 16 and preparing to start her junior year of high school, nearly broke the world record while winning the women's 400 free. Connor Jaeger pulled out a bronze in the men's 400 free, which was won in dominating fashion by China's Sun Yang.
No swimmer has ever won eight golds at the world championships. Phelps came oh-so-close in 2007 when he won his first seven events but never got a chance in the eighth. The Americans were disqualified in the preliminaries of the 400 medley relay while Phelps was resting up to swim in the final.
The following year, of course, he won a record eight golds on a much bigger stage, the Beijing Olympics.
Franklin, now 18 and getting ready to go off to college at Cal-Berkeley, won four golds and a bronze in London. She just missed out on medals in the 100 and 200 free - events she will again swim at the worlds along the 50 back, a non-Olympic event.
"I'm right where I was last summer, which gives me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the meet," Franklin said. "I think I am a little stronger in my backstrokes than my freestyles, but I've done a lot of work on my freestyle the past year so I really hope that it's going to be up there."
She was far behind on the opening leg after a blistering start by Australia's Cate Campbell. Coughlin and Shannon Vreeland chipped away at the Aussie lead before Romano finished the job. She edged Alicia Coutts by 0.12 sec with a winning time of 3:32.43. The Netherlands finished another 3 sec behind for the bronze.
"I just love to race. And relays are awesome," Romano said. "It's great competing for these girls next to me. I was doing it for them. It's fun and I love it. I can't not go fast."
Ditto for Ledecky, who's also planning a grueling program at these worlds that includes the 800 and 1,500 free. It looks likes she can handle the load, her star still on the rise after a stunning gold medal in the 800 at the London Olympics when she was a complete unknown internationally.
"It is easier," she said. "I am a lot more relaxed on the international stage after having the Olympics as a first international competition. It's just great to get back to a top international competition and to do well."
The only drama in her race was whether the world record would fall. She was on pace much of the race before winning with a time of 3:59.82 - a mere 0.67 sec off the mark set by Italy's Federica Pelligrini back in 2009 in one of those rubberized suits that are no longer allowed.
(China Daily 07/30/2013 page22)