Olympic Games, London 2012, Day 7 Finals
Women's 200 Backstroke Final
American Missy Franklin was the hot favourite for her second gold of the meet - and all the hype was more than worth it. The 17 year-old reigning world champion and holder of the world best textile mark never left a doubt as to who would win this race.
She was out in 29.53 and already at the hundred mark was .41 seconds under Kirsty Coventry's (ZIM) shiny suit world record pace (1:00.50). Britain's Elizabeth Simmonds challenged from lane 1, and held on to second place until the 100.
Franklin kept up the scintillating pace and had more than a body length on the field at the 150 turn - then sailed home on the roar of the crowd to hit the touchpad in 2:04.06 - smashing Coventry's mark - scoring the backstroke double - and ushering in a new age of women's backstroke.
Russia's Anastasia Zueva reached in for the silver in 2:05.92 - preventing a one-two punch for the USA as Elizabeth Beisel had to settle for bronze in 2:06.55.
That makes three gold and one bronze for the towering Franklin - not a bad medal haul so far at her first Olympics....and the medley relay is still to come.
"I can't believe what just happened," said Franklin, who had dedicated her Olympics to victims of the theater shooting not far from her Colorado home. "In that last 25, I knew I was giving it everything I had because I couldn't feel my arms and legs and I was just trying to get my hand to the wall as fast I could."
On having rewritten the world mark, she said, "It feels absolutely amazing, I can't think of a better way to end my individual events."
"That is my favourite one, I wanted to get out there and have fun and that's what I did," she added. "I never dreamed it would happen like that, I am the happiest girl alive."
Said teammate Beisel: "She's an amazing competitor, she's always having fun but she really knows how to tune in when she needs to. In the waiting room I was pretty nervous and just watching her have so much fun really made me relax."
After receiving her medal from Russia's Alexander Popov, a legend with 50m and 100m crowns to his name from both 1992 and 1996 (a unique feat), Franklin said she did not know that a world record awaited her at the end of Friday's race.
"I definitely took it out really fast," she said. "It hurt so bad in the last 25, that's the part that I love, knowing that I'm pushing myself past the limit. It means the world to me and I just wanted to go for my best time today."
On the fact that shiny suit standards are being eroded (but far from being flushed away, the all-time ranking lists soaked in them still), Franklin said: "I think that you always have to think that what you want to achieve is possible. Just knowing that it is a larger mountain after those suits, an onward climb, a harder climb, it is going to be much more worth it at the end."
Bravo to that. "And this pool is extremely fast, you're always hearing someone saying this pool is a fast pool. This pool has been my favourite by far," said Franklin endorsing the Aquatics Centre. "It means so, so much to me, every athlete dreams of having a world record."
Asked about the retirement of Michael Phelps, Franklin saw a bright future: "I think there are so many members of the team this year and the national youth team that are coming up that are going to help carry on this incredible generation that we had before us. It is going to be incredibly hard because they have left unbelievable footprints in swimming history and just being able to follow that and to learn from them is going to help us all become better."
Meanwhile, defending champion Coventry (ZIM) missed out on the chance to join Kristina Egerszegi (HUN) in the triple crown club- she finished 6th in 2:08.18 - her year's best performance not nearly good enough in the face of the new generation. Canadian record-holder Sinead Russell - swimming in her first Olympics - finished 8th in 2:09.86.
Fastest field: London 2:04.06 - 2:09.86
Fastest field: Beijing 2:05.24 - 2:10.12