Facts going into the race:
Impact of morning finals:
Minimal, though several went faster in heats than semis, one finalist was level to her heats time and two in the final swam slower than the semis, which happens whatever the format.
What it took to make semis:
Notes from the race:
Stephanie Rice (AUS) set the fifth world record of the morning finals session at the Water Cub, claiming the crown in 2:08.45, 0.47sec inside her own world record and 0.14sec ahead of Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), the bronze going to Natalie Coughlin (USA) in 2:10.34. Rice's win was the tightest in the history of the event. Coventry raced inside world-record pace at the 100m (1:00.16) and 150m (1:38.27) marks and with 230m to go was still leading by a stroke. All the while, Rice, in lane 5, stayed close to Coventry, in lane 4, never more than 0.52sec away (after backstroke) and going into the last turn just about level with the Zimbabwean, the gap just 0.09sec. A gruelling, dig-deep and fight-every-inch-of-the-way battle for the wall ensued on freestyle. It was the 1:56S 200 free swimmer who came through at the touch. Coventry took silver in an African record of 2:08.59. The skills of both Rice and Coventry on all four strokes are something to behold. There is always room for improvement but there is no obvious point of weakness - a must-have status for any medley swimmer who wants to take gold on a world stage these days. Coughlin's race to the bronze was a little odd. First at the turn on 27.29, the American seemed to be winded by the effort on butterfly, the Olympic 100m backstroke champion let three women pass her on her specialist stroke, her split, of 33.79 slower than five other finalists. Had she matched Coventry's backstroke split - a whopping 2.1sec better - Coughlin would have been champion and world record holder. Of course, it doesn't work like that, but the slow backstroke split sits uncomfortably on the result sheet. Katie Hoff (USA), a supertalent having a difficult meet, was fourth well down on best. Only the top two made an impact on the all-time top 10 list though just shy of half of the all-time top 50 now stem from 2008.
Impact on all-time top 10
All-time top 10, end 2007:
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Rice became the fifth member of the medley double club (200m and 400m victory at the same Games) alongside Claudia Kolb, Tracy Caulkins and the shamed Michelle Smith de Bruin (IRL) and Yana Klochkova (UKR). The Irishwoman raced to three golds in 1996 with performances that represented a spike in her long career on the way to a fall from grace when she manipulated a drug-test sample in 1998. The Beijing final left Klochkova and the USA sharing the helm of the overall gold count, with two victories each; Americans have won more medals than any other nation, on nine. Klochkova is joined by Lin Li and Daniela Hunger (GDR) as the only women to have returned to the podium for the 200m medley. Hunger claimed the 1988 title for the GDR and then won bronze racing for the first reunified German squad in 1992. Lin claimed the 1992 crown and took bronze in 1996 in the midst of the China doping crisis in a final won, ironically by Smith de Bruin. The victim in the mix was Marianne Limpert (CAN). Four women stand out in the history of medley swimming: pioneer Donna de Varona (USA), follow-up act Claudia Kolb (USA), Caulkins and Yana Klochkova (UKR). Caulkins having been stopped by boycott in 1980, it is Klochkova that has a perfect record at the helm of all: no other woman has ever retained an Olympic medley title, and she achieved that in both the 200m and 400m (2000, 2004).
Fastest: 2:08.45, Rice, 2008
World Record wins: Gould (AUS), 1972; Lin Li CHN), 1992; Rice (AUS), 2008
Biggest margin: In 1968, Kolb clobbered her rivals, winning the title by 4.1sec over teammate Susan Pedersen in an Olympic record of 2:24.7.
Closest shave: Rice's win over Coventry, by 0.14sec at Beijing 2008.