Olympics: Vollmer sets American, Olympic records in 100 butterfly prelims

Dana Vollmer’s quest for an Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly got off to a strong start Saturday morning.

The 24-year-old Cal grad had the fastest qualifying time in her specialty at 56.25 seconds, setting U.S. and Olympic records.

“I’m really happy with how fast it was and I think it’s only going to get faster,” she said. “That’s kind of a confidence-booster.”

Asked if she has a time faster than 56 seconds in her sights, Vollmer said, “I sure hope so.”

She added, “I like to push myself in the prelims and see where I’m going in my body.”

The top 16 qualified for the semifinals.



Olympics: Natalie Coughlin ready to chase history

Elliott Almond, our man on the ground in London, files this report on former Cal star Natalie Coughlin, who will swim in the 400-meter freestyle relay prelims Saturday morning while you are sleeping.

There’s a chance — but no guarantee — that Coughlin could be given a spot in the evening relay final.

The prelims will begin at 4:11 a.m. PDT and can be seen live — if you’re a fanatic — online at nbcolympics.com. The relay final will be held at 12:40 p.m. PDT. 

Either way, Coughlin earns whichever medal the team wins.

And the medal would be her 12th in the Olympics, tying the record for most by an American woman at the Olympics.

Coughlin, 29, also talks about the possibility of returning for a fourth Olympics in 2016 at Rio de Janiero — a topic she has not publicly addressed before.


Olympics: Alex Morgan scores twice, USA women’s soccer team rallies past France 4-2 in opener

Former Cal star Alex Morgan scored twice and the USA women’s soccer team overcame a 2-0 hole after just 14 minutes to beat France 4-2 in the Olympic opener.

Morgan scored the game-tying goal, then added the final score for the American squad.

Playing in her first Olympics, Morgan now has 19 goals in 16 international games for the USA squad.

Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd also scored for the USA, which plays Colombia on Saturday.


Olympics: In ’48, a remarkable Cal man won the pole vault at the London Olympics

He had completed his education at Cal six years earlier, was married, had a child and had flown cargo missions from India into China over the “Hump” of the Himalayas during World War II.

But Guinn Smith still had the skill and toughness necessary to win an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault in a rain storm at the 1948 London Games.

Here’s his story.


Track: Ex-Bear Montano 3rd at Monaco meet

Alysia Montano, in her final tuneup before the London Olympics, ran third today in the 800 meters at the Herculis Diamond League meet in Monaco.

The former Cal star ran 1:59.05, well off her season and personal bests.

Russian Yelena Kofanova won the race in 1:58.41 and Burundi’s Franchine Niyonsaba was second with a national record of 1:58.68. South Africa’s Caster Semenya, projected as an Olympic silver medalist by Track and Field News, placed ninth in 2:01.67.


Olympics: Ex-Cal star Alysia Montano to run Friday at Monaco in final London tuneup

Former Cal track and field star Alysia (Johnson) Montano will run her final race before the London Olympics on Friday in an IAAF Diamond League meet at Monaco. The U.S. trials winner sits No. 2 on the 2012 world list with a lifetime best of 1 minute, 57.37 seconds.

Montano left on a flight to Europe on Tuesday evening and is healthy and in excellent race condition, reports Tony Sandoval, her coach at Cal and now.

The 800-meter field at Monaco is loaded: Six runners with lifetime bests faster than 1:58. Leading the way is South Africa’s Caster Semenya (1:55.45) and a pair of Russians, Yelena Kofanova and Irina Maracheva.

Here’s a cool promo video featuring Montano.

Opening ceremonies for the London Games are nine days away. The Olympic track and field program begins Aug. 3.


Olympic trials: Anthony Ervin 2nd in 50 free

Former Cal star Anthony Ervin, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 50-meter freestyle, made the team for the London Games by finishing second in the event at the trials in Omaha. Ervin touched in 21.60 seconds — 1/100th of a second behind winner Cullen Jones.

Ex-Bear Nathan Adrian was third — just missing an Olympic bid — in 21.68.

Tom Shields, who led Cal to the 2012 NCAA team title, was fourth in the 100 butterfly final at 51.86.

Jessica Hardy, another ex-Bear, was the fastest qualifier in the 50 free semifinals, clocking 24.56. Dara Torres, 45, was the No. 3 qualifier in the event.

TRACK AND FIELD: Cal grad David Torrence finished sixth in the 1,500-meter final at Eugene, Ore., missing a trip to London. Torrence ran 3:37.70.