Adlington looks forward to next battle after taking 400m bronze

Rebecca Adlington continued her remarkable Olympic story last night with an unexpected bronze in the Aquatics Centre.

The 23-year-old from Mansfield was the defending champion in the 400m freestyle following her double-title winning performance in Beijing.

But she went into last night’s final having only sneaked through the heats as eighth fastest.

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However, in a performance full of characteristic guts and determination, she took bronze to take her overall Olympic medal haul to three, with her favoured 800m freestyle still to come later in the week.

It also doubled the host nation’s tally following the silver success of Otley’s Lizzie Armitstead in cycling’s road race earlier in the day.

Adlington’s 400m freestyle title went to Frenchwoman Camille Muffat in a new Olympic record of four minutes 01.45 seconds with American Allison Schmitt second.

Adlington, forced to swim out of lane eight, came from sixth at halfway to touch in 4mins 03.01secs and by the end was closing on Muffat and Schmitt.

“I did not expect to medal,” said Adlington.

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“It’s a really tough race. The only disappointment is with the time, as I know it’s slower than I swam in March.

“The crowd definitely helped me and lifted my performance and I can’t wait to share the medal with them.

“A lot of people expected me to get a gold and the fact that I got that reception when I got out the pool (having won a bronze) is amazing.

“Everyone else put that pressure on me. I didn’t put that pressure on myself.”

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On her expectations for the women’s 800m freestyle on Friday, Adlington added: “The 800m is going to be a battle. To get a medal in the 400m is unbelievable and at least I can say I gave everything. There is not an ounce of disappointment.

“Swimming is one of those sports, it’s really hard to medal in. I can only do my best.”

Adlington’s success illustrated how difficult Northallerton’s Jo Jackson has found the road back to success.

Jackson was a surprise bronze medallist in Beijing as Adlington touched the wall first in the 400m freestyle.

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Jackson then built on that performance by winning three medals at the world championships in Rome the following year.

However, 18 months battling a serious asthma problem – when the agonies she suffered included ribs popping out as she competed – left Jackson playing catch-up with the rest.

She only returned to full strength last year and was well down the field in seventh in yesterday morning’s heat.

It was a difficult heat with Adlington leading the way from the outset, but nevertheless Jackson’s exit was in stark contrast to her heroics in Beijing four years ago.

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The 25-year-old is now left to concentrate on the 4x200m, the heats of which are on Wednesday.

Jackson’s disappointment rounded off what was a relatively slow start by Yorkshire’s swimmers.

Joe Roebuck remained bullish about his pace despite failing the stamina test in Saturday’s 400m individual medley.

The 27-year-old from Rotherham shot out of the blocks to lead his heat after a quick first 100 in the butterfly, but by the second split his backstroke had seen him drop to seventh.

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He eventually finished eighth in a time of 4mins 20.24secs, fully six seconds down on his personal best. But with the 200m butterly heats to come this morning, and the 200m individual medley on Thursday, he is confident that all is not lost.

“The butterfly felt really easy which is a great positive with the 200m fly coming up, and I feel strong going into that,” said Roebuck.

“I feel I’ve got the speed for both remaining races.

“I prioritise the other two races but it was nice to get the first race out of the way, to get over the nerves.

“I would have liked to have done a much better job being the first Briton out to help kickstart the team but it was not to be.”

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Middlesbrough’s Aimee Willmott, 19, arrived at London 2012 with a unique ambition – to beat her father. Stuart Willmott finished 15th in the 400m IM at the Los Angeles Games of 1984.

Twenty-eight years to the very day, Aimee Willmott finished 11th, just a second outside her personal best to eclipse her father’s effort.

She said: “I’m really, really happy with that.

“I nearly reached the final as well, but at least I can rub it in my dad’s face.

“He told me to enjoy the occasion, because it’s a once in a lifetime thing.

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“That’s my best performance in a morning swim and I’m really proud that I stepped up when it mattered most.”

Rotherham’s Becky Turner, 19, showed good form ahead of the individual events when she helped the women’s 4x100m team reach Saturday’s final.

Turner, who contests the 200m freestyle this morning, anchored Britain home to a fourth-place finish in their heat, but because she had recorded the slowest time of the four swimmers, she was dropped from the final squad in favour of Fran Halsall.

“Swimming well let’s me know I’m in good shape and I’ve got a lot to give in the individual events as well,” said Turner.