By: Mark Maloney
SEC Digital Network
LONDON — Bulldogs and Gators — oh, my!
That combination paid double dividends in gold Tuesday at the Summer Olympic Games.
Georgia Bulldogs senior Allison Schmitt completed a full set of medals, adding a 200-meter freestyle gold to the silver and bronze she had won earlier in London’s Aquatics Centre.
Former Florida Gators Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer swam the first two legs on the United States men’s gold-medal 800 freestyle relay, Lochte earning his second gold of the Games.
"Amazing. I couldn’t be any happier right now," said Schmitt, whose silver came in the 400 free after opening the Games with a bronze in the 400 relay. "Looking up and seeing that No. 1 next to (my name), and I had an amazing time."
Schmitt, fourth at the first turn, led by nearly a second at the halfway point and continued to pull away. She touched the pad in an Olympic and American record of 1:53.61. Camille Muffat of France took silver in 1:55.58, followed by Australia’s Bronte Barratt in 1:55.81.
Then came Team USA’s Missy Franklin and the 2008 Olympic champion — world record-holder Federica Pellegrini of Italy.
"I knew I had to take it out in order to be in the race," Schmitt said. "And I took it out. ... I just went for it."
Lochte, who won the 400 individual medley on the first day of swim competition here, had been disappointed twice since then. He lost the lead on the anchor leg of the 400 freestyle relay, settling for silver, then placed fourth in Monday’s 200 freestyle. Tuesday, he moved to leadoff position. Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Games, anchored even though he had just spent himself an hour earlier with a silver-medal finish in the 200 butterfly.
Lochte did his part, opening nearly a full-second lead.
Dwyer, Florida class of 2012, extended the gap to more than two seconds.
Ricky Berens made the margin nearly four seconds, just as Phelps had hoped. "What we talked about in the huddle -- I thank these guys for helping me get to this moment," Phelps said. "Because I told those guys I wanted big lead. I said ‘you’d better get me a BIG lead going into this last leg. And they gave it to me.
"I just wanted to hold on, and I thank them for being able to allow me to have this moment."
Phelps brought Team USA home to a third consecutive goid in 6:59.70. France was runner-up in 7:06.30. China out-touched Germany for bronze, 7:06.30 to 7:06.59.
The Americans have won four of the last five Olympic golds in the event, seven of the last 10 and 14 of 18. And Lochte got it all started a day after disappointment in the 200 free.
"Everyone just kept telling me ‘you know what, you’re better than that. Just forget about it and move on.’" Lochte said. "I didn’t swim at all this morning, which I thought helped. I woke up this morning, I was back to my self. I was that happy-go-lucky go. I think that’s what really helped me throughout the whole day and the swim tonight. Now I can take that energy and put it into tomorrow’s races."
Another former Florida (and Arizona) ace, Clark Burckle, moved through the 200-meter breaststroke heats and semifinals.
Burckle placed second in his heat and fifth overall in the morning heats (2:09.55), then survived a scare to place second in his semifinal heat and sixth overall in 2:09.11.
"It was actually pretty cool, because before I swam I found out that my suit didn’t have the proper tag on it for identification, so I had to change about two minutes before my race and I was pretty flustered," Burckle said. "So I never felt comfortable, but I was able to refocus, stick to my race."
Suits must be approved by swimming international governing body. Because the tags of approval are on different places on different suits, Burckle didn’t notice the problem on his own.
"It was a bit of a pain," he said of his quick-change act, "but it kind of got my heart rate up."
Also advancing was former Auburn (2009) sensation Cesar Cielo, the 100 freestyle world record-holder from Brazil. He tied for a bronze medal in Beijing, where he also won gold in the 50 free.
He placed fifth his Tuesday morning heat, tied for 10th overall, in 48.67. In the semis, he dropped to 48.17, qualifying fifth. Another former Auburn star, Zimbabwe four-time Olympian and eight-time medalist Kirsty Coventry, placed sixth in the women’s 200 individual medley.
She won bronze in the event in 2004 and silver in 2008, but was not disappointed with Tuesday’s outcome. "It was a quick event. The girls swam really well in it so that was exciting," Coventry said. "And I made the finals in my fourth Games, so I can’t really be disappointed with that."
China’s Shiwen Ye won in Olympic and Asian-record time, 2:07.57, followed by Alicia Coutts of Australia and Caitlin Leverenz of the United States.
Coventry, timed in 2:11.13, finished just behind the other American in the race, Ariana Kukors.
Will four Olympics be the end of her career?
"That’s the big question. I don’t know," Coventry said. "I’m kind of just taking things as they come, finishing up this meet. And I think in the past Olympics I haven’t been able to really get a sense of it, so I’m enjoying doing that in London."