July 25, 2011
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
It was an emotional rollercoaster ride for swimmers Monday at the XIV FINA World Aquatic Championships in Shanghai, China.
There were plenty of tears from Norway’s Alexander Dale Oen, Brazilian Cesar Cielo, American Dana Vollmer and Ye Shiwen of China for different reasons.
Dale Oen won the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke for Norway, a small nation still in shock after Friday’s attacks in Oslo and the island of Utoya which left ninety-three people dead.
Dale Oen pointed to his country’s flag on his swim cap after winning in 58.71. Italian Fabio Scozzoli took silver in 59.42 and South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh took the bronze in 59.49.
“I wanted to show that everybody should be united in these difficult times,” Dale Oen told reporters. “We should stand together as Norwegians. I try to imagine what it is like at home but it’s hard.
“I was racing more with my heart today than I was technically. I just tried to use what happened back home as fuel and to think that we just need to push forward.”
Cielo won the 50-meter butterfly four days after escaping a possible doping ban of two years. Cielo was booed by a small group of swimmers sitting in the stands when he was announced before the race and then was cheered when he started crying on the medal podium.
Swimmers and coaches are still upset that Cielo was cleared to swim by the Court of Arbitration for Sport despite testing positive for a banned drug.
Cielo wept openly after winning the gold medal in 23.10 and during the medal awards ceremony. Aussies Matthew Targett took the silver in 23.28 and Geoff Huegill took bronze in 23.35.
“I had never expected that I would face such things,” Cielo said. “I didn’t expect the gold medal at all. That’s been the biggest relief of my life. It is the time to test not only my ability to swim but also how much I can take.
“This gold has definitely a different taste than the other ones. That was probably the hardest medal in my life.”
Vollmer, after breaking the American record in the semifinals, came back to win her first world title in the 100-meter butterfly in 56.87.
“I was a little slower than in semis, just with nerves,” Vollmer said. “It doesn’t matter though. I got my hand on the wall. It was a little more painful than yesterday’s swim but I’m so excited.”
Vollmer overcame a heart condition, shoulder tendinitis and back injury to win the biggest title of her career.
“I’ve never won a world championship before,” Vollmer said. “I just feel like all the different things I’ve been doing with training are really, really paying off for me right now.”
Aussie Amanda Coutts won the first of two silver medals in 56.94 and China’s Lu Ying took the bronze in 57.06. Defending champion and world record holder Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden was shut out of a medal with a fourth place finish.
Ye, only 15-years-old, gave her hometown crowd plenty to cheer about after coming from behind to win the 200-meter individual medley to win China’s first gold medal.
Before the final turn, Ye was in fifth place and stormed back on the freestyle leg for the gold medal in 2:08.90.
“Before the race I was very nervous,” Ye said. “At one moment I thought I couldn’t catch up with the leaders so I just gave it all I had. With about 20 meters I was quite sure I could win.”
Aussie Amanda Coutts took silver in 2:09.00 and defending champion and world record holder Ariana Kukors of the U.S. took the bronze in 2:09.12. Olympic champion Stephanie Rice of Australia, who had shoulder surgery last year, was fourth.
In semifinal action, Michael Phelps turned it on in the final 50 meters to qualify fifth for Tuesday’s 200-meter freestyle in 1:46.91. Floridian Ryan Lochte was third fastest qualifier.
“It’s a deadly field,” Phelps said. “You know it’s going to be down to the last 50. I think whoever gets their feet over first in that 150 is going to have that shot.”
Phelps said his primary goal was to make finals. “I just wanted to get in,” Phelps said. “I don’t really care where I am in the pool as long as I have a lane, that’s all I need.”
In Tuesday action, South Florida Aquatic Club’s two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov will compete in the second of three events. He will compete in the 50-meter breaststroke on Tuesday and on Thursday the 200-meter breaststroke. He was eliminated from the 100-meter breaststroke on Sunday.
Russia scored on two long goals in the final period and goalie Anna Karnaukh saved a penalty shot to give her country a 9-7 upset win over the United States women’s team in the quarterfinals. The U.S. women had won the last two world championships and three of the last four.
Italy knocked off Australia 14-12 in a penalty shootout in Monday night’s quarterfinals. Italy will advance into the semifinals on Wednesday against Greece, 10-8 upset winners over Olympic champion Netherlands in their quarterfinal. In the other quarterfinal, China beat Canada, 9-7.
British diving superstar Tom Daley, who failed to defend his gold medal or win any medal on 10-meter platform at worlds, has decided to quit school at 17 to focus on his training leading up to the 2012 London Olympics. In January he plans to take a break from school to train for a year. He plans to return to school after his training is complete. “It’s going to be good to concentrate on diving rather than splitting my time with school,” Daley said. “I’ve never done that before.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com