Members of the U.S. women's relay team, from left, Lia Neal, Allison Schmitt, Jessica Hardy and Missy Franklin pose with their bronze medals in the women's 4x100-meter freestyle relay swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Saturday, July 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
LONDON | Australia captured gold in the women’s 400 freestyle relay on Saturday with an Olympic record of 3 minutes, 33.15 seconds, rallying to pass the Americans and hold off the fast-charging Netherlands.
The U.S. got off to a blistering start with Missy Franklin swimming leadoff under world-record pace, and the Americans were still ahead after Jessica Hardy went next. But the Australians rallied behind Brittany Elmslie on the third 100, and Melanie Schlanger held on at the end, with Ranomi Kromowidjojo closing fast to give the Netherlands a silver in 3:33.79.
The other members of the winning team were Alicia Coutts and Cate Campbell.
The Americans slipped to the bronze in 3:34.24, which was enough to set a new American record and got Natalie Coughlin the 12th medal of her career, tying Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson as the most decorated U.S. female Olympians in any sport.
Coughlin swam in the morning prelims, then was reduced to the role of cheerleader in the evening as the Americans went with Franklin — the 17-year-old who attends Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School and won her first Olympic medal — Hardy, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt. Everyone who swims on a relay gets a medal, though.
“I really have no idea what to think of it so far,” Coughlin said. “I’ll have to take it all in tonight. I’m very proud of it, but I’ve never been on a morning relay before.”