REBECCA ADLINGTON admitted she was “over the moon” after becoming the first British woman to win Olympic swimming gold for 48 years with a brilliant victory in the 400m freestyle.
Teammate Joanne Jackson also took bronze in a thrilling finish as Britain matched their total medal haul from Athens in 2004 in a single race.
Adlington snatched gold ahead of American Katie Hoff, winning by 0.07 seconds in a time of four minutes 3.22secs with Jackson third in 4:03.52.
The 19-year-old from Mansfield is the first British woman to claim gold since Huddersfield’s Anita Lonsbrough in 1960.
Adlington and Jackson are also the first British women to win a medal since Sarah Hardcastle in Los Angeles in 1984.
Hardcastle won silver in the 400m freestyle and bronze in the 800m freestyle, the event in which Adlington is ranked world No1 in 2008. A thrilled Adlington said: “We are both so happy to have two British girls on the podium. I don’t think either of us expected it and especially a gold and a bronze, it’s absolutely amazing.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m just over the moon.”
Northampton’s Jackson, 21, added: “I didn’t really know what to expect this morning because it was a hard swim last night to get into the final. For two British girls to get on the podium is amazing and I am so happy for both of us. It’s great for British swimming.”
Victory came on the day it was revealed Adlington’s parents had lost £1,100 in a scam after buying tickets online for the 800m final, although they have now secured genuine tickets and will fly to the Chinese capital on Wednesday.
Adlington and Jackson paced their race to perfection, reaching 100m and 200m in sixth and eighth place respectively. Just over half a second separated the field at the halfway point as the British duo began to up the tempo, Adlington reaching 300m in fifth and Jackson just ahead in fourth.
Hoff looked to have a built a decisive lead but Adlington powered up the final 50m to win it at the wall.
“It was a lot harder this morning. We just tried to ignore the times and race the final,” added Adlington. “I don’t think either of us are natural sprinters.
“But we didn’t panic when we were a little bit behind. I didn’t see anyone past Katie, I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t see what there was on the other side of the pool, I saw Katie and just tried to catch her.”
The medals followed Nicole Cooke’s superb success in the Women’s Road Race yesterday.
“It was just joy,” she said of crossing the line first..
“There was just so much emotion coming out that I wasn’t composed enough to give a proper salute, but I guess that’s just the person I am.”