- 14 Aug 08, 09:25 AM
After the buzz of watching the British girls take gold and bronze in the 400m freestyle I came crashing down to earth with slightly more than a bump as the 4x200m freestyle relay team failed to qualify for the final despite being one of the favourites.
Rebecca Adlington and Caitlin McClatchey were rested to keep them fresh for the final and Jo Jackson, Mel Marshall, Hannah Miley and Fran Halsall could only stare at the scoreboard in disbelief as they missed the top eight by a tenth of a second.
National Performance Director Michael Scott came forward and took full responsibility for the decision which in itself was refreshing. I'm not sure his predecessor, Bill Sweetenham, would have done so.
In truth it's more likely that head women's coach Ben Titley picked the team and to his credit Ben was also prepared to be interviewed, but the British Swimming press officer felt Michael was more appropriate.
If I'm honest I would probably have made a similar decision to Ben.
I would have rested two swimmers, although I would have swum Caitlin instead of Jo, and I too underestimated both Hungary and Japan.
In hindsight clearly it was a mistake but based on the times the girls have swum and the times the swimmers from other teams had posted, I would have thought our quartet would have no problems qualifying.
For individual medallists Rebecca Adlington and Jo Jackson it is a disappointment and will cast a small shadow over their Olympics.
But for Caitlin and Mel it was their last chance of a medal gone.
I used to anchor the Great Britain relay team and have raced along side three of those girls and I felt their disappointment too.
The final however was still an exciting race with Australia and the US both fielding completely different teams to the heats, and China making one change.
The replacement swimmer for China, Pang Jiaying had a rollercoaster of her own during the session.
She was disqualified in the 100m semi final after posting one of the fastest times but picked herself up to swim a best time and anchor China to a surprise silver medal behind the Aussies, who smashed the world record by over five and a half seconds.
Would Great Britain have featured in the medals?
It would have taken a Herculean effort by the girls but they would most definitely have preferred to be in there battling than watching from the side.
The 100m final is always an exciting race but the build up to this one, and the ups and downs of the big names, had made this race more eagerly anticipated than ever.
Alain Bernard of France held the world record before the Games started - but he not only lost it to Eamon Sullivan as he led off the Australian 4x100m freestyle relay, but he was overtaken by Jason Lezak of the USA on the final leg in one of the most exciting finals in Olympic history.
Bernard looked a broken man.
And then just to stick the knife in a little further, Sullivan lowered the world record again to a blistering 47.05 in the semi-final of the 100m to set up what would surely be the fastest 100m final ever.
All the big names made it through, Lezak, Sullivan, Bernard and not forgetting the Flying Dutchman, Pieter van den Hoogenband.
Could Bernard really pick himself up, could Sullivan really be beaten?
Well the answer to both, was yes.
Bernard took the coveted gold medal and for the first time this week punched the air with a huge smile on his face.
Once again the mental strength of the athletes at these Games has astounded me.
And you can add these to the list:
- Italy's Federica Pellegrini who yesterday pushed out of her head the mess she made of the 400m freestyle to come back and smash the world record on her way to gold in the 200m;
- Fran Halsall, who got up this morning to race the 100m freestyle after the disaster of the relay last night and qualified for the final in 5th;
- Markus Rogan of Austria who finished an agonising 9th in the 100m backstroke - but will go into the 200m backstroke final ranked 3rd.
More than ever this week of swimming has proved to me that it is so important to be able to put races, good or bad, behind you and move on.
That the greatest athletes are not the ones who just swim well, they're the ones who can pick themselves up from the huge disappointments that are an integral part of sport, and then swim well.
Let's not forget that for every single Olympic gold medallist there are a lot more whose dreams have just been crushed.
But the highs and lows of sport are what make it so magic; the upsets, the comebacks and the dramas.
I may be here at these Olympic Games working for the BBC - but having competed at the four previous Games I still can't help empathising with the athletes and going through every emotion with them.
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