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Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008

2008 BEIJING OLYMPICS: SWIMMING

Nakamura bags bronze in 200 back


Staff writer

BEIJING — It's an old saying — "It's not how you start the race but how you finish it" — but it still seems as fresh as the morning dew.

News photo
Bronze glory: Reiko Nakamura waves after receiving her medal for a third-place finish in the women's 200-meter backstroke on Saturday morning at the Water Cube. AP PHOTO

This was the case Saturday in the opening race of the swimming session at the Water Cube.

In the women's 200-meter backstroke final, Reiko Nakamura collected her second Olympic bronze medal, repeating the feat she accomplished in Athens four years earlier.

With a strong closing effort, Nakamura completed the race in 2:07.13.

"I wanted to swim 2:06, but today I'm satisfied because I performed my best," she said.

Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry earned her fourth medal of the Beijing Games, winning the 200 back in 2:05.24, a world record. She took silvers in the 200 and 400 individual medley races and the 100 back.

Margaret Hoelzer of the United States grabbed the silver in 2:06.23.

Nakamura moved from fourth to third place between the 100- and 150-meter distances and maintained the third-place position after the final turn.

"I think the crucial point was that I saved energy within the first 150 meters and gave it my all in the last 50 meters," said Nakamura, a Yokohama native.

"In the last part of the race my legs were nearly dying, but I kept putting effort in and I was able to swim all the way."

Reflecting on her experiences in Athens and Beijing, Nakamura described them as "totally different."

She added: "Since I got the bronze medal, I have been thinking about winning a medal for four years. I had a very tough time during this period."

With a medal within her reach on Saturday, the 26-year-old Nakamura made a strong push for bronze when it mattered most, the time of the race that separates contenders from pretenders.

"After 150 meters, I noticed that there was quite a gap . . . so I realized I could go all the way. Once I thought that, I was able to swim more calmly," she said.

In addition to her success in two Olympiads, Nakamura has placed second in the 200 back at the past two FINA World Championships in 2005 in Montreal (2:08.54) and 2007 in Melbourne, Australia (2:10.41).

"I wanted to win a medal in the 100-meter (backstroke), but because I had this disappointment (a sixth-place finish in the final) it helped me to achieve in the 200 meters," she said.

To achieve this goal, it took all-out concentration on Nakamura's part, even ignoring the whereabouts of the eventual gold medalist.

Here's how she described the process:

"I could have looked for her, but if you are looking for other people you cannot do your own race. So I wasn't looking at the others' swimming. I was swimming as if my eyes were closed."

Now she'll want to keep her eyes open. She has a shiny bronze medal to stare at.

Torres wins semi

BEIJING (AP) Dara Torres, the 41-year-old mom swimming in her U.S.-record fifth Olympics, will have the top starting position for the finals of the 50-meter freestyle after posting the fastest time in Saturday's semifinal heats.

Torres' time of 24.27 was the sixth-fastest this year, and 0.15 better than anyone else. World record-holder Lisbeth Trickett of Australia also advanced to the finals, as did American Kara Lynn Joyce.

"I looked and I saw that I was first," said Torres, who won bronze in the 50 in Sydney eight years ago. "That's a little more pressure, and I'm old enough to be able to handle it."

Torres already has a silver medal in Beijing, having anchored the U.S. women in the 400 freestyle relay. But an individual medal would be nice, too, considering she had retired after giving birth in 2006.



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