Steffen beats Torres for 50 free gold

Britta Steffen of Germany has defeated 41-year-old American Dara Torres by 0.01 seconds to win the women's 50-meter freestyle at the Beijing Olympics.

updated: August 22, 2008 09:10 IST
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Dara Torres lost an improbable gold medal on Sunday morning by one-hundredth of a second - the same margin that kept Michael Phelps on course to break Mark Spitz's record.

The 41-year-old Torres, a five-time Olympian and the oldest American swimmer ever, settled for two more silver medals on the final day of swimming at the Water Cube.

She had three runner-up finishes in all, but was oh-so-close to a gold in the 50-meter freestyle.

Germany's Britta Steffen nipped Torres at the wall to complete a sweep of the women's sprint events in Beijing. The middle-aged American smiled, her head dropping back, when she saw a time of 24.07 seconds - just behind Steffen's winning effort of 24.06. The German added to her gold in the 100 free.

Torres received her silver, then hustled back to the locker room to grab her cap and goggles. She anchored the U.S. to a second-place finish in the 400 medley relay, unable to catch Libby Trickett on a frantic sprint to the wall.

Still, not bad considering she had retired a second time after the 2000 Sydney Games, then got the urge to compete again after having her first child two years ago. Not content swimming in the old-timers' division, she set out to prove that age is only a number.

Consider that point made.

Torres got off to a good start in the 50 and appeared to be leading midway through the race, a frenetic sprint from one end of the pool to the other.

As they came to the wall, Torres and Steffen were stroke for stroke. The German reached out with her left hand and Torres stretched with her right. Steffen's fingertip got there first.

Completing a race for all ages, 16-year-old Australian Cate Campbell claimed the bronze in 24.17.

In the relay, Torres claimed the 12th - and surely last - medal of her career.

Then again, never count this woman out. She'll only be 45 for the London Games.

Australia's women - Emily Seebohm, Leisel Jones, Jess Schipper and Libby Trickett - took the gold with a world record of 3:52.69. The Americans claimed silver with the second-fastest time in history, 3:53.30, while China took the bronze.

Torres was joined on the U.S. team by Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni and Christine Magnuson. Coughlin received her sixth medal of the games, giving her 11 in her career.

The last race in Beijing was the men's medley relay, with Phelps going for his record eight gold medal of the games in an event the Americans have never lost at the Olympics.

On Saturday, Phelps tied Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals with a heart-stopping win in the 100 butterfly, beating Serbia's Milorad Cavic by a hundredth of a second.

Grant Hackett fell short in his bid to become the first man to win the same event at three straight Olympics.

Australia's distance king was upset in the 1,500 freestyle by Ous Mellouli, who won Tunisia's first Olympic swimming gold in 14 minutes, 40.84 seconds.

Mellouli held off Hackett in the closing meters of the grueling race, swimming's version of the mile. Hackett earned the silver in 14:41.53, well off his 7-year-old world record of 14:34.56.

Ryan Cochrane of Canada took the bronze in 14:42.69.

Mellouli, who trains in Southern California, was coming off a suspension after testing positive for amphetamines.