Dubai, world s/c championships, day 3 finals
Women's 4x100m medley
China, the US and Australia battled in a final of their own way out in front, the rivalry leading to a championship record of 3:48.29 for the Chinese, their gold just 0.07sec ahead of silver for the Americans, the Dolphins 0.52sec further adrift.
In a thrilling close to the third day of action, China claimed its first title win in the event since the tainted years of 1993 and 1997 at the height of the doping crisis that rocked the sport and poured shame on China and the sport of swimming.
The splits tell the tale of the toing and froing of the race, the decisive split a 51.77 by Tang Yi that swept her and China past Jessica Hardy and the USA. The split is the fastest ever by a swimmer in a textile suit, inside the 51.99 of Libby Lenton at the 2006 world championships.
The Chinese won the strategic battle, fielding two swimmers who are the best at what they do in Dubai but did not race the solo events, giving way to slower swimmers.
On backstroke Zhao Jing got the better of Natalie Coughlin 56.52 to 56.83, Rachel Goh on 57.39, before Rebecca Soni took the lead with a 1:03.73 split that was just 0.03sec faster than that of Leisel Jones in catch-up mode. Great but not good enough given that Zhao Jin, the missing 'g' crucial for the name of the woman missing from the solo 100m, managed a 1:04.20. On 'fly both Felicity Galvez, 55.56, and Dana Vollmer, 55.62, had the edge on Lie Zige, 55.80, setting the US up for a small but solid lead of 0.34sec at the last dive.
Jessica Hardy looked unlikely to yield over the first 50m and gained a further 0.33sec on Tang Yi, Marieke Guehrer also a touch faster than her Chinese competitor. But Tang was not done. Rather she dug deep for resources that the world had yet to learn of, coming back in 26.93, compared with splits of 27.67 for Hardy and 27.38 for Guehrer.
The result and splits:
Zhao Jing 56.52; Zhao Jin 1:04.20; Liu Zige 55.80; Tang Yi 51.77
Natalie Coughlin 56.83; Rebecca Soni 1:03.73; Dana Vollmer 55.62; Jessica Hardy 52.18
Rachel Goh 57.39; Leisel Jones 1:03.76; Felicity Galvez 55.56; Marieke Guehrer 52.17
There is no getting away from just how swift that split is, in isolation and all the more so when held up in the light of the progress in the solo event of 17-year-old Tang, who did not race the individual event here in Dubai.
The last five finishers in the medley relay final:
History in the making:
World s/c Podiums
Most world titles in this event: 3
Records (TB = best ever in a textile suit)
Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 2 - Australia; USA (inc college team)
All-time textile rankings top 5:
From the archive:
On December 8, 1956 the Dutch quartet of Joke De Korte, Ada den Haan, Tineke Lagerberg and Cocky Gastelaars cracked the world record in 4:53.1. It was the last short-course mark to stand as a world record until such things became official again from March 3, 1991. FINA rule that from 1957 world marks could only be set in 50m pools. It took until September 1958 for the long-course mark to get inside the 1956 effort of the Dutch. And again, it was the Dutch who delivered, with Den Haan, Largerberg and Gastelaars joined this time by Lenie De Nijs, on 4:52.9 for the European crown in Budapest.