Rebecca Adlington faces Olympic final dogfight, says her coach Bill Furniss

Rebecca Adlington with coach Bill Furniss after winning bronze on Sunday.
Rebecca Adlington with coach Bill Furniss after winning bronze on Sunday.

MANSFIELD’S Rebecca Adlington has the fuel in the tank to not only win gold but create swimming history at the Olympic Games tonight.

The 23-year-old cruised through her heat yesterday morning to qualify fastest for tonight’s 800m freestyle final in a time of 8:21.78.

And after winning gold in Beijing four years ago, smashing the world record in the process, she is now looking to become the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title.

Her Nova Centurion coach Bill Furniss was delighted with how Adlington came through her heat without having to step into top gear.

And he says that all bodes well for tonight, although he said she will have another dogfight on her hands if she is to win any medal, let alone gold.

Denmark’s Lotte Friis qualified second fastest, just 0.11s behind Adlington while America’s 15-year-old Katie Ledecky , Spain’s Mireia Belmonte Garcia and New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle are all contenders to take her crown.

But Adlington, who also has the fastest time this year to her name of 8:18.54 – her world record is 8:14.10 - looked relaxed in front of the home crowd yesterday, lapping up the applause from the expectant spectators and although the Team GB press officer ushered her through the mixed zone without her speaking to written press, she turned to say ‘sorry’ out of politeness.

Adlington, who won double gold in Beijing and secured bronze in the 400m freestyle in London last Sunday, looked calm, focused and ready to go again in the final, which takes place at 7.45pm.

And Furniss said: “I was very pleased with how the morning heat went. The plan was to get through the heat economically and she did that. Rebecca was in control and now it means she is in a good lane, in lane four, having qualified fastest.

“She knows it is going to be a dogfight, we are under no illusions about that. It is going to be very difficult but Rebecca is in a very good place right now, I am very pleased with how it went. She was very economic. But nothing has been achieved yet.

“It is great having the big crowd on her side, she is very appreciative of that but she is used to big crowds, she has been there before and now it is about resting and coming back down to earth, ready for the final. Those heats, not matter how you swim them, have a physical and emotive cost.

“That is why we will be working on a few things we can tidy up and then it is about rest and recovery ahead of the final.”