4x100m: Russia Fells France; Germany Holds
Aug 9, 2010 - Craig Lord
European Championships, Budapest, day 1: 4x100m freestyle finals, men and women
Russian men took down the favoured French quartet in the 4x100m freestyle in a championship record of 3:12.46 to 3:13.29. The bronze went to defending champions Sweden in 3:15.07, those times back to pre shiny suit standards. The Russian time matches that in which the USA held the world record before the advent of the shiny suits era, something for head coach Andrei Vorontsov and squad to celebrate.
Among women, Germany took the crown in 3:37.72, with Britain and Sweden chasing in 3:38.57 and 3:38.81 respectively.
The splits show that William Meynard put gold in Gaul's grasp but Alain Bernard, who let the Olympic crown slip for France against the US (albeit in the face of a transformed Jason Lezak and when swimming very fast himself) before winning the solo crown for self in 2008, let it get away again as he swam slower (and disappointingly slow by his standards) than Yannick Agnel did even after the teenager had wiped out world champ Paul Biedermann in the 400m free a little over an hour before.
Andrey Grechin, second man in for Russia, said: "Our only aim was to beat the French - and that's what we did!" And in doing so, they drew Russia level with Germany on historic gold-medal count in the event, both nations in their current guises (no URS, no GDR counted) having won five times.
Fabien Gilot, opening for France, reflected the downbeat mood among the French sprint crew: "We lost at the Olympic Games, we lost at the world championships, and thought this time would be our time to win. Unfortunately, we didn't. The whole team is none too happy."
In the Swedish quartets men and women were two swimmers who won medals at the Sydney Olympics, 2000 - Therese Alshammar and 100m 'fly champion Lars Frolander, she said: "When I look at the start list, I feel really old with al those young swimmers around. But as long as I'm good for a medal, I'l go on. It's still real fun."
Effect on race on all-time top 10: 0
From the archive: Since 1962, when the sprint relay joined the party, Germans have outdone their opponents on seven occasions, more gold than anyone else has panned for. Right now, Germany struggles to put together four men capable of taking on the giants, and that even in days of unification. In a time before that, rivalry between FRG and GDR was intense. Down the years, FRG beat GDR 6 to 3. The closest of those clashes, and one that led to gold for FRG and silver for GDR, unfolded in 1985, when west beat east by 0.14sec. The GDR hit back with a European record of 3:19.17 in 1987, while FRG got the last laugh before the fall of the Wall, with a 3:19.68 win by 0.05 over France, in 1989.
US 2007 and Russia 2010, a match on the clock
WOMEN (Budapest 2010)
Fran Halsall split a 53.05 to give Britain the lead at the half-way can look to a weakened Dutch quartet (no Kromowidjojo, no Veldhuis this year) to find the struggle when it comes to the solo event later in the week: Femke Heemskerk brought the Orange four home for 6th in 52.93. Germany's strength was the sum of its parts, as the splits (below) show.
Daniela Samulski, who delivered gold for Germany, said: "We reckoned that we could win a medal even without Britta Steffen (up in the commentary box) but after the withdrawals in the Dutch team we even thought about gold."
Effect on race on all-time top 10: 0
From the archive: If the Netherlands could have fielded their best this summer they could have drawn level with the eight titles claimed by the GDR in straight succession from 1970 to 1989. On all but one of those GDR moments, the Dutch made the podium, taking five silvers behind quartets whose performances were enhanced by State Plan 14:25. The Dutch were the most successful nation in this event from 1927 to 1966, with five crowns to their credit.