Olympics

Australia wins gold in 400 free relay

Watch as Amy Van Dyken recaps Day 1 of Olympic swimming.
Watch as Amy Van Dyken recaps Day 1 of Olympic swimming.
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LONDON (AP)

Australia has won gold in the women's 400-meter freestyle relay, setting an Olympic record of 3 minutes, 33.15 seconds Saturday night.

The United States team got off to a blistering start with Missy Franklin swimming leadoff under world-record pace, but the Australians rallied behind Brittany Elmslie on the third leg. 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, but that was still good enough to give Natalie Coughlin the 12th medal of her career, tying Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson as the most decorated U.S. female Olympian. Coughlin swam in the morning prelims, but wasn't used in the evening; everyone who swims on a relay gets a medal.

''I really have no idea what to think of it so far,'' Coughlin said. ''I'll have to let that one sit and I'll have to take it all in. I'm very proud of it, but I've never been on a morning relay before.''

She swam a leg in the preliminaries, helping the US qualify second-fastest. But for the evening final, the Americans went with teenager Missy Franklin and Jessica Hardy, and brought back Olympic rookie Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt, leaving Coughlin to play cheerleader.

They finished in 3 minutes, 34.24 seconds, an American record.

''I was a little bit disappointed just because I tend to get better as the meet progresses,'' Coughlin said, ''but I don't envy the coaches, what they had to go through this morning. They really weighed the decision and I think they made a good one.''

Coughlin, whose six medals in Beijing were the most by an American woman at one Olympics, didn't qualify for an individual event in London. She finished sixth in the 100 free at the US trials to put herself in the relay mix.

US women's coach Teri McKeever, who is also Coughlin's personal coach at California, considered each swimmer's split times and their relay exchanges in deciding to leave Coughlin out.

''As the head coach, I think I made the right decision,'' McKeever said. ''As her coach, it was difficult.''

McKeever carried two boxes containing bronze medals that she planned to present to Coughlin and Amanda Weir, the other morning swimmer, in their rooms at the athletes village.

McKeever said experience was one factor taken into account, and at 29, Coughlin had the most among any of the relay swimmers.

''We all gave our opinion,'' she said. ''It was not unanimous.''

Added US men's coach Gregg Troy, ''She wasn't quite as fast as she needed to be. She's certainly a little disappointed. She should be. We want all of them to want to go.''

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Coughlin was gracious about being dropped, saying, ''I'm supportive of the coaches and what they did.''

Neal said she was aware that Coughlin needed one more medal to tie Thompson and Torres.

''I'm just so happy we all chipped in to help Natalie achieve this accomplishment,'' she said. ''She's such a great teacher. I've learned quite a lot from her.''

Tagged: Natalie Coughlin, Missy Franklin, Lia Neal

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