Swim queen Adlington exceeds expectation by claiming 400m freestyle bronze
Sunday, 29 July 2012
July 29 - This time, in theory at least, the roars beforehand were perhaps more in hope than expectation.
After all, having almost missed the final as the eighth fastest qualifier, it would have needed a major upset for Rebecca Adlington (pictured top), darling of British women's swimming, to successfully defend her 400 metres Olympic freestyle title tonight.
Unlike cyclist Mark Cavendish 24 hours earlier, Adlington, double Olympic heroine of Beijing, was very much the underdog in a dazzling field which she knew would test her to the hilt.
In fact after her heat she even tweeted: "Not expecting anything tonight.
"All I can do is my best."
But it is not for nothing that Adlington is the best female swimmer Britain has ever produced, spending on average four hours a day in the water since her teens.
And what a performance she produced with a magnificent last 200 metres to clinch the bronze and give the host nation its first swimming medal of London 2012.
Adlington has had a tough time since her double Games triumph four years ago when she was just 19.
The mental scars of becoming an overnight sensation took their toll but she hit back to take gold in the 800m and silver in the 400m at last year's World Championships – and once again tonight showed how much she relishes the big occasion.
Sixth at the halfway stage, she battled her way forward, overhauling world and Olympic record holder Federica Pellegrini of Italy who once again failed on the biggest stage of all and finished a disappointing sixth.
The race was won by France's Camille Muffat who dominated from the start and led virtually throughout, followed home by Allison Schmitt of the United States.
Adlington will be back on Friday (August 3) for her signature event, the 800m, for which she broke the world record in Beijing – smashing the mark set by Janet Evans of the US when Adlington was just a toddler.
Having defied the odds to clinch the third Olympic medal of her sparkling career, she now stands of the brink of immortality – with the host nation holding its collective breath.
"The crowd was so overwhelming," Adlington said.
"Twelve years' hard work has gone into that.
"Four hundred metres always feel so hard for me and they were so far ahead.
"I'm so glad I've got a medal at a home Games.
"Not many people can say that."
March 2012: Adlington qualifies to defend both Olympic titles at London 2012
March 2012: Emotional Adlington secures London 2012 Olympic slot after sensational performance
February 2012: Double Olympic champion headlines sold-out British Championships
December 2011: Exclusive - Adlington admits lack of confidence over Olympics' qualification
December 2011: Cavendish and Adlington take top honours at SJA Awards