TORONTO, July 14 – Avon swimmer Madison Kennedy gave the United States women’s 4×100 freestyle relay team the lead after the third leg of Tuesday night’s championship final at the Pan American Games in Toronto.
Canadian Chantal Van Landeghem snatched it right back.
Led by Van Landeghem, Canada denied the United States a gold medal in the 4×100 freestyle relay for just the second time in Pan-Am Games history with a thrilling 0.21-second victory. The last time the Americans fell in the Pan-Am finals in this event was 1999 to Canada.
The U.S. team set a meet record in the preliminary round with a time of 3:37.28, breaking the record they set four years ago in Mexico by over three seconds. The Americans had the top seed in the final with the No. 2 seeded Canadians more than four seconds behind.
But it was a neck-and-neck race in the 4×100 final. Canada held the lead after two legs. They led by 0.45 of a second after one leg and Amanda Weir cut the lead to 0.26 of a second after two legs.
Kennedy swam the third leg and immediately grabbed the lead. She led Canadian Katerine Savard by 0.40 of a second after 50 meters and gave anchor leg Natalie Coughlin a lead of 0.24 of a second.
But Coughlin was facing Van Landeghem, who she swam against a few minutes earlier in the final of the 100 meter freestyle. Van Landeghem stunned Coughlin in the 100 free final with a Pan-Am record time of 53.83 seconds with Coughlin taking second in 54.06 seconds.
In the anchor leg of the relay, Van Landeghem regained the lead and led by 0.59 of a second with 50 meters remaining. Coughlin surged and nearly pulled even with Van Landeghem but the 6-foot-4 Canadian stretched at the finish to give Canada the win.
Canada won the race with a Pan-Am record time of 3:36.80 while the Americans were second in 3:37.01, nearly a half-second better than their qualifying time in the morning.
Kennedy had the second fastest time of the night for the Americans in the final, swimming her 100 meters in 53.89 seconds. Coughlin was the fastest U.S. swimmer in 53.87 but it wasn’t enough to stop Van Landeghem, who swam a 53.42. Ironically, Coughlin and Van Landeghem each swam faster in the relay than the 100 meter freestyle final.
The other swimmers on the American team in the finals were Allison Schmidt and Amanda Weir.
In the preliminary round, Kennedy swam her leg in 53.92 seconds. Schmidt had the fastest time in the morning in 53.82 seconds. Along with Katie Meili and Kelsi Worrell, the Americans had the Pan-Am meet record for about eight hours.
Kennedy’s silver medal is her second Pan-Am Games medal. She won a bronze medal in the 50 freestyle at the 2011 Games. Kennedy will swim in the 50 free on Friday in Toronto.
Athletes from 41 nations are competing in 39 sports at the Pan-Am Games, which aim to mirror the format of the Olympic Games – which are two years away in Rio, Brazil.
Kennedy, 27, is a 2005 graduate of Avon High and a 2010 graduate of the University of California. She currently lives in North Carolina and trains with SwimMAC Elite in Charlotte.
Pan Am Games
Women’s 4×100 freestyle relay: 1. Canada (Sandrine Mainville, Michelle Williams, Katerine Savard, Chantal van landeghem) 3:36.80, new Pan-Am Games record; 2. United States (Allison Schmitt, Amanda Weir, Madison Kennedy, Natalie Coughlin) 3:37.01, 3. Brazil 3:37.39