Pakistan’s Olympics dreams were dealt a brutal blow on the opening day of competition proper as its solitary female swimmer, 15-year-old wild-card entrant Anam Bandey, crashed out of the mega event, ending fourth in her 400m medley heats.
With her time of five minutes and 34.64 seconds, Anam finished last in the list of 35 starters, almost 36 seconds slower than Argentine Georgina Bardach who finished 34th. Anam, however, managed to improve her personal best, and the national record, by almost three seconds in the process.
Anam, who lives and trains in London, and Israr Hussain were Pakistan’s two representatives in the swimming event.
Phelps survives scare
Meanwhile, swimming legend Michael Phelps suffered a nervy start in his bid to become the greatest Olympian in history.
The 27-year-old, who has 16 Olympic medals, needs just three medals to surpass Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record of 18. But the defending champion just scraped into yesterday’s 400m individual medley final by the skin of his teeth. Phelps finished in four minutes 13.33 seconds to grab the eighth and last spot in the final which took place late last night.
Rival Ryan Lochte, who has established himself as a threat to Phelps in both the 200m and 400m medleys, was content to finish second in his heat behind South African Chad le Clos. Le Clos’s 4:12.24 was the second-fastest of the morning, and Lochte was third-fastest of the day in 4:12.35.
“I was slower here this morning than I was four years ago, but you can’t win the medal from the heats,” said Phelps.
In a major shock, reigning Olympic champion Park Tae-Hwan of South Korea was disqualified in the 400m freestyle for a false start.
Park touched first in his heat, but left the pool stunned as the disqualification flashed on the scoreboard. China’s Sun Yang led the way into the final.
“I don’t know what happened,” a stunned Park told reporters. “I need to speak to my coach to find out.”
Sun now gets the chance to go after the 400m freestyle Olympic gold medal ahead of Americans Peter Vanderkaay (3:45.80) and Conor Dwyer (3:46.24).
There was also disappointment for German world-record holder Paul Biedermann, who also missed out on the final with a time of 3:48.50.
“It wasn’t so good,” said Biedermann. “I wanted to lead from the front, but I couldn’t hold it. I have the 200m freestyle tomorrow and I am hoping for a better outcome.”
“That’s the Olympics. It’s always a surprise, every single heat. You just have to focus on your own race. It’s super hard to know what your competitors are going to do when you’re in the first seeded heat and you haven’t seen any other heats.”
“It was not so good for me. I wanted to lead the race from the front, but I could not hold it. I have the 200m freestyle tomorrow and I am hoping for a better outcome in that one. I would like to make up for the bad results.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.