Day 1 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai
Women's 4x100m freestyle
Femke Heemskerk produced a blistering anchor leg of 52.46 to overhaul the United States and return the crown to the Netherlands in the sprint relay, a combined 3:33.96 with Inge Dekker (54.91), Ranomi Kromowidjojo (53.26) and Marleen Veldhuis (53.33) the fastest ever by a quartet wearing textile-only suits. Coach Jacco Verhaeren would doubtless have fallen into slumber with a smile on his face tonight.
Natalie Coughlin (54.09), Melissa Franklin (52.99), Jessica Hardy (54.12) and Dana Vollmer (53.27) came home in 3:34.47 for silver, the battle for bronze won by Germany, with Olympic and world 100m champion Britta Steffen, in the midst of a comeback, delivering the quote of the day after a 54.51 lead-off split: "That's it for my championships. I don't expect to see the podium again. I'm used to luxury class but now I'm Traby class", that a reference to the GDR's now retro-cool Trabant with its engine fit for mowing lawns with.
Alongside Steffen were Silke Lippok (54.17), Lisa Vitting (53.85) and Daniela Schreiber (53.52), their efforts totalling 3:36.05 and keeping China at bay by 0.31sec, with Tang Yi producing a homecoming 53.12 that key Australia in fifth, Alicia Coutts completing a monumental day on 53.43. Canada, Japan and Denmark followed through.
The times of Heemskerk, Franklin and Tang are the best three ever relay splits by swimmers wearing textile suits, Tang's time matching that of Hardy from last year. All suits, Heemskerk clocks in a 7th, Franklin 14th and Tang joint 16th.
"We were going into this event as the defending champions so it was very exciting from this standpoint to start the race. We knew in advance that it would be a close race with the Americans," said Veldhuis. "They led the pack from the beginning and when I jumped into the water, I just tried to maintain the gap and I actually decreased it so I was very happy with my race."
Heemskerk added: "I am very proud of our team. Last year were struggling a bit, as Marleen had a baby. Now she's back, we win the final so it's a very special moment for us."
History in the making:
From the archive:
In 2008 and 2009, Dutch quartets claimed the European, then Olympic, then world titles. It had been a long time coming. Down the years since their last Olympic victory in 1936, the Dutch had won four silver medals and four bronze medals. At world-championship level, between 1973 and 2007, they had won four bronze medals.