Rice, Pellegrini obliterate own world records in pool
The world record holder prevailed over the Olympic record holder in the final of the women's 200-metre individual medley at the Summer Olympics in Beijing on Wednesday morning.
Stephanie Rice of Australia staged a spectacular rally with 10 metres remaining, increasing the tempo of her freestyle stroke enough to nip Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry at the wall in a world and Olympic record time of two minutes 8.45 seconds.
"I feel great," Rice said. "It is so good I pulled through.
"I felt a little sick last night. But I was up for the challenge and tried to get the best out of myself."
Rice set the previous world record of 2:08.92 on March 25, while Coventry established the Olympic standard of 2:09.53 in Tuesday's semifinals.
"It was so great for me to have [her] pushing me along," Rice said. "It got the best out of me."
Coventry conceded the record in settling for the silver medal, and Nathalie Coughlin of the United States took the bronze in the star-studded final.
"Now I have got one of each colour, so I'm happy," said Coughlin, winner of the 100m backstroke and a silver medallist in the 4x100 freestyle relay.
Canada's Julia Wilkinson placed seventh in 2:12.43, a satisfying showing considering she was ranked 25th in the world.
"I don't think I'm far off at all," she told CBC Sports. "I'm doing better than I thought I would be."
Wilkinson, from Stratford, Ont., eclipsing her own Canadian record with a clocking of 2:12.03 in the semifinals.
"Yesterday was an awesome swim for me," she said of her record-setting semifinal.
Pellegrini wins 200m freestyle
Federica Pellegrini of Italy obliterated her own world and Olympic record en route to winning the gold in the 200m freestyle at the National Aquatics Center.
Pellegrini covered four lengths of the pool in a record time of one minute 54.82 seconds.
She set the previous mark in Monday's qualifying heat, lowering it from 1:55.52 to 1:55.45.
"I have reached three great aims — gold, the world record and getting past the wall of 1:55," Pellegrini said.
Pellegrini, the silver medallist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, churned ahead of Slovenia's Sara Isakovic and Pang Jiaying of China, who set the pace early but faded over the final few metres.
Isakovic clocked 1:54.97, followed by Pang in 1:55.05.
"I knew her race tactics, to race at a moderate pace and then really go for it," Isakovic said of Pellegrini. "I have been overtaken from behind many times."
No Canadians competed in the event.
Pang burst off the block and retained the lead for most of the race, but Pellegrini, Isakovic and Katie Hoff of the U.S. gradually closed the gap.
All four swimmers made the final turn at a world-record pace, with Pellegrini clinching the gold on the strength of a superior finishing kick.
"The key this time was instinct," she said. "My coach told me to follow my instincts and that was the best way for me."
Hoff finished fourth in 1:55.78, failing to reach the podium for the first time at the Water Cube.
"I feel like I have less pressure now," she said. "I already have two medals."
Camelia Alina Potec, the defending Olympic champion from Romania, trailed Pellegrini by more than two seconds (1:56.87).
With files from the Canadian Press