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Fri Apr 25 02:01:55 SAST 2014

Coughlin passes mantle to Franklin with relay medal

Rosalba O’Brien, Reuters | 29 July, 2012 11:050 Comments
(L-R) Jessica Hardy and Missy Franklin of the United States support their teammates during the final of the women's 4x100m freestyle relay on day one of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 28, 2012 in London, England
Image by: Al Bello / Getty Images

Natalie Coughlin may have passed the mantle to young team mate Missy Franklin on Saturday, winning her 12th Olympic medal when the United States sealed the bronze in the women’s 4x100 metres freestyle relay.

The bronze medal, earned after she swum the heats earlier on Saturday, ensured the 29-year-old Coughlin joined Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most successful American female swimmers at the Olympics.

Coughlin only qualified for the relay for the London Games and was replaced by Alison Schmitt in the team for the final.

The first American female swimmer to win six medals at a single Games in Beijing in 2008, Coughlin has dallied with life after swimming, appearing on chat shows and a dancing competition, and her legacy now appears to have been passed to the tall teenager from Colorado.

Franklin, like Coughlin, swims both backstroke and freestyle and on relay teams and has entered seven events in London and the 1,85 metre (6-foot-1) teenager, may well have kickstarted her own accolade-filled Olympic career with a blistering swim in the lead-off for the relay.

“It’s really weird having a first race be a final,” Franklin told reporters after she clocked 53,52 seconds to give the Americans the lead in the final. “I’m not used to that. But it was so exciting and so much fun.

“You always have those first race nerves, but having it be a final made me more excited because I knew it would be a full crowd.

“I was going out there for one chance and one chance only and I think we did great.”

“I think I can be faster but I’m really happy with my time and I’m so proud of my team.”

The Americans were denied gold by a gutsy Australian performance, who all swam under 54 seconds to set an Olympic record and upset the highly-fancied Beijing and two-time world champions the Netherlands, who took silver.

“Going in, we thought we had a chance of a medal,” said Australia’s Melanie Schlanger, who will also compete in the 100 individual freestyle.

“The Dutch girls have been so strong in this event for so long, we’ve tried to emulate what they’ve done.”

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