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Coutts & Co Sunk By 2:07 Chinese Puzzle

Jul 31, 2012  - Craig Lord

Olympic Games, London, day 4 finals:

Women's 200m medley

They put up a brave fight, but Alicia Coutts (AUS) and Caitlin  Leverenz (USA) had little chance. Facing a woman who can come home in 28.93 on the last lap of a 400m medley to a 4:28.43 world record, they knew they would have to be well up on Ye Shiwen (CHN), 16, at the last turn.

Leverenz was a stroke ahead going into the turn and almost a metre behind the Chinese teenager into the last lap as Ye put on a turn of speed the rest of the best on the world of women's swimming simply cannot cope with as the 400m champion added the 200m crown to her London treasury in an Olympic record of 2:07.57.

Coutts, her best time of 53.78 in the solo 100m freestyle, compared to a 55.38 best for Ye, turned 0.01sec ahead of the Chinese puzzle by her side. A great shout at the gold, surely. Not a chance: Coutts was the only woman in the final under 30sec, a 29.91 leaving her at 2:08.15, the best ever in a textile suit by a big margin, 0.75sec inside Ye's lifetime best in fact.

Not good enough: Ye came home in 29.32 for a 2:07.57 Olympic-record and Asian-record victory, the only thing left standing a shiny suit record of 2:06.15 that, since Ariana Kukors (USA) set it in 100% poly blaster suit, tops the list of shiny suit standards most likely to last the longest.

The defending champion, Stephanie Rice (AUS) was locked out in 2:09.655 for fourth place, Kukors fifth in 2:09.83, the 2008 silver medallist Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) on 2:11.13, Hannah Miley on 2:11.29 for Britain.

The IOC and other odd folk who shout about how wrong it is to question anything in the absence of a positive test - even some who were teammate soy those who got hammered by the GDR and seem to have forgotten how awful it all was - leapt to China's defence, not realising that it is not Ye or China as a whole that are being criticised. They conveniently forget that not a single GDR swimmer ever tested positive - outside the secrecy of the GDR laboratories that is; they conveniently forget the events of the 1990s and China as the scourge of world swimming racing its way through a haze of horror.

Too strong? Try being a victim like those I know not far from where I have a home in Germany. From three programmes, I counted 42 miscarriages and 7 disabled children, a shoal of former swimmers with liver problems, heart problems and many other ailments. Where are the Chinese victims? You can guarantee that with more than 40 positive steroid tests we know of the count of young folk abused back home will have run to figures much larger than those.

It is being suggested that something is not quite right with Ye's performances and the way she executes them. At Ye's press conference tonight, there was no end to the questions, many drug-related and one that asked point-blank: have you ever used banned substances?

As if she would say "yes"; as if she would even know if she was in the hands of rogues such as Zhao Ming from the 1990s. 

"Absolutely not," Ye said through a translator, as expected. "I think this is a little bit unfair for me, however I was not affected by that. I'm not affected by the outside noise." She agreed with the analysis of Jiang Zhixue, who leads anti-doping work at China's General Administration of Sport, who said the critics were biased.

"I also feel the same way, they are biased," Ye said. "I think that in other countries other swimmers have won multiple golds and no-one has said anything. How come people criticise me just because I have multiple medals?"

Not what people are criticising her for, in fact. They are merely noting the very obvious anomaly in our midst and, knowing how hard the likes of Beisel, Miley, Hosszu, Rice at al work, ask: how? How does a 16-year-old girl cover the last 100m of a 400IM as fast as Ryan Lochte when travelling 3sec faster than the average woman among the best 10 in the world, when travelling faster than Allison Schmitt did coming home to a 1:53 200m freestyle?

To those who ask such questions comes the tired charge of "racist". Nothing could be more stupid, the very people who say "don't accuse", happy to accuse people they do not know of something that many consider to be worse than cheating in sport. That charge of "racist" was levelled at all of us in the 1990s - and guess what: we weren't (and never were) but they were definitely cheating and a whole generation of children was being abused (44 positives are just the tip of an iceberg of a crisis).

Just as it was with Le Jingyi and Dai Guohong, with He Cihong and Lu Bin, the latter among those caught and banned, sympathy is what a young girls in such circumstances may deserve.

The questions ought to go to those who never have to sit before the international media and account for wholly off-the-chart performances, in Ye's case the anomaly of a finishing speed on freestyle that suggests she would knocked out Muffat in the 400m and Schmitt in the 200m had she swum those events.

There's another chapter in this tale well beyond these Games.

The splits compared:

  • 28.25; 1:00.83 (32.58); 1:38.25 (37.42); 2:07.57 (29.32) Ye London 2012 Olympic title
  • 28.84; 1:01.77 (32.93); 1:39.48 (37.71); 2:08.90 (29.42) Ye Shanghai 2011 world title
  • 27.70; 1:01.47 (33.77); 1:38.68 (37.21); 2;09.00 (30.32) Coutts Shanghai silver
  • 27.72;   59.24 (31.52); 1:36.31 (37.07); 2:06.15 (29.84) Kukors world title and WR Rome 2009*
  • 27.84; 1:00.68 (32.84); 1:38.36 (37.68); 2:08.45 (30.09) Stephanie Rice 2008 Beijing crown*

* Booster bodysuits used, Rice 50% poly, Kukors 100%; suits banned January 1, 2010

London 2012: 

  • 1. Ye Shiwen (CHN) 2:07.57
  • 2. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 2:08.15
  • 3. Caitlin Leverenz (USA) 2:08.95

Beijing 2008:

  • 1. Stephanie Rice (AUS) 2:08.45 WR (27.84, 1:00.68; 1:38.36; 2:08.45)
  • 2. Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) 2:08.59
  • 3. Natalie Coughlin (USA) 2:10.34

Fastest field: Beijing 2008: 2:08.45 - 2:13.36 (semi-final top 8: 2:09.53 - 2:12.18)

Comparison fields:

  • London 2012: 2:07.57 - 2:14.19
  • Shanghai 2011: 2:08.90 - 2:16.18 (7th, 2:11.39)
  • Beijing 2008: 2:08.45 - 2:13.36
  • Athens 2004: 2:11.14 - 2:15.40

To qualify for the final it took: 

  • 2:10.93 London 2012
  • 2:11.92 Shanghai 2011
  • 2:12.18 Beijing 2008