LONDON The Australian women, boosted by a strong third leg from Brittany Elmslie who overtook American Lia Neal, won gold in the 400-meter freestyle relay in 3 minutes 33.15 seconds.
Taking second was the Netherlands (3:33.79) while the United States was third (3:34.24). Missy Franklin and Jessica Hardy swam the first two legs and gave the United States the lead until the third leg. They eventually slipped to third on Allison Schmitt s anchor leg.
But the backdrop of the relay was a riveting one. It resulted in Natalie Coughlin s 12th Olympic medal, even though she did not race in the final.
Shortly before the start of the night session, USA Swimming announced the selection of the relay team. Despite her decorated history and sensational relay split (53.93 seconds) in the morning preliminary session, Coughlin was left off the relay.
Lineup changes from morning heats to night finals can often be controversial and this was an especially tough call. On top of it, Coughlin s longtime personal coach and mentor, Teri McKeever, also happens to be the women's Olympic swimming coach.
In any event, because Coughlin swam in the morning, she still gets a medal and ties swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres for the most Olympic medals won by an American woman.