|Arianna makes history|
Guardian Sports Editor
Published: Aug 04, 2012
LONDON, England – For the first time in history, a Bahamian swimmer has made it to an Olympic final.
The feat was accomplished yesterday as Bahamian swimming sensation Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace glided through the waters at the Aquatics Centre in London en route to a new personal best time and national record in the women’s 50-meter (m) Free.
Vanderpool-Wallace swam 24.64 seconds, which was 15 hundredths of a second faster than her previous national record, to finish third in her semi-final heat and qualify for tonight’s final sixth overall.
Marleen Veldhuis, of the Netherlands, won that semi-final heat, in 24.50 seconds; world record holder Britta Steffen of Germany, was second, in 24.57 seconds, and Vanderpool-Wallace rounded out the top three.
After the disappointment of not making the final in the 100m Free the night before, Vanderpool-Wallace certainly wasn’t going to be denied Friday as she turned in the fastest swim ever by a Bahamian female. Vanderpool-Wallace believes that she still can go faster, and plans on doing just that in today’s final. She will swim out of lane seven, right next to the world record holder, Britta Steffen, who will be in lane six.
“I just was thinking about everything that I needed to do right in the race,” said Vanderpool-Wallace last night. “My start still wasn’t what I wanted it to be, and that was a couple tenths of a second right there, but I’m glad that I made it through. I’m just going to go home, relax a bit, and come back tomorrow ready to go.”
Vanderpool-Wallace said that she was relieved to make an Olympic final in swimming in her second Olympic Games and make history for The Bahamas. Four years ago in Beijing, China, she failed to make the semi-finals in either event in her Olympic debut. She said that the pressure is now off, and she can just go out there and swim as fast as she can in the final.
“It feels awesome,” she said. “This is something that I have been focusing on since the last Olympics. It’s a bit of relief. I’m sure I’m going to be focused for the final. It’s going to be tough to get a medal but I’m going to give it a shot.”
Vanderpool-Wallace finished seventh in the women’s 50m Free at last year’s Shanghai World Championships, in 24.79 seconds. She’s looking for a better performance this time around. On Thursday, she became the first Bahamian female to advance to an Olympic semi-final in swimming, and now, she is the first Bahamian to advance to an Olympic final in swimming.
Ranomi Kromowidjojo, from the Netherlands, the gold medalist from the women’s 100m, qualified for the 50m Free final with the fastest time last night. She swam a time of 24.07 seconds. Aliaksandra Herasimenia, from Belarus, had the second fastest qualifying time of 24.45 seconds, and Dutch swimmer Veldhuis had the third fastest qualifying time of 24.50 seconds.
Vanderpool-Wallace was the top qualifier from this side of the world. The only other qualifier from the western hemisphere was American Jessica Hardy who qualified with the seventh fastest time, 24.68 seconds.
Regardless of how Vanderpool-Wallace swims tonight, it’s going to be a grand time among Bahamians here in London. Just the fact that she has become the first Bahamian to advance to an Olympic final in swimming, has everyone upbeat. Even the foreign press have picked up on the historic feat being accomplished and are singing her praises along with The Bahamas. The track athletes and officials and all of the Bahamians in London have been supporting Vanderpool-Wallace straight through these 30th Olympics as the only swimmer on this team.
The track athletes are encouraged and motivated by her magnificent swimming. They are all rallying around her and are hoping for the best today.