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Culture

Breaking the Bad Luck Streak

After a disappointing show in the first few days of individual events, Germany's 4x200m women's freestyle relay squeezed out a bronze. It is the first medal for the downtrodden swim team since arriving in Athens.

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German swimmers finally have something to celebrate in Athens

One after another, Germany's women swimmers failed to bring home a medal in the first days of competition. Franziska van Almsick, Hannah Stockbauer, Antje Buschschulte and Petra Dallmann had all come to Athens dreaming of gold or at least several medals for their team. But until Wednesday evening, none of them had been successful.

When they dove into the water one after another in the 4x200m freestyle relay, none of them had much hope in winning gold. The Americans and the Chinese were too strong. But a bronze -- that was within reach, if they swam better than they had so far in Athens.

And they did. Franziska, whose career nears its end after nearly 12 years of Olympic competition with nothing but disappointing finishes, said she cried "tears of joy" and couldn't stop staring at the time chart. With 7:57.35 minutes, the quartet was not the fastest -- that honor went to the Americans with 7:53.42 and then to the Chinese with 7:55.97.

For the German team, though, the bronze signaled a possible break in the long run of losses. "It was really great, the way we worked together," said Hannah Stockbauer, who as the final swimmer managed to narrow the gap to the lead and pull ahead of the Australian team to bring home a medal.

Stockbauer hopes the medal will give her plenty of positive momentum going into the 800-meter freestyle finals on Thursday. "I hope I've swum free," she said referring to the bad luck strain plaguing the German swim team.

Breaking the record

For the US team, the event proved historic. Natalie Coughlin, Carly Piper, Dana Vollmer and Kaitlin Sandeno broke swimming's oldest world record set by East Germany 17 years ago to the day. The four Americans were 2.05 seconds faster than the former world record holders.