Despite upset, Beisel all smiles after taking silver medal in 400 IM

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LONDON -- Elizabeth Beisel received a one-word greeting as she stopped in the mixed zone after her first defeat in the 400-meter individual medley at a major championship in three years.

"Congratulations," a reporter said.

"Thank you so much," Beisel, beaming, responded.

Given the circumstances, silver was quite satisfying for the 19-year-old University of Florida rising junior. Beisel, the reigning world champion in the 400 IM, the decathlon of swimming, could not match the domination of fellow Gainesville resident Ryan Lochte an hour earlier Saturday evening at the Olympic Aquatics Centre.

But Ye Shiwen certainly did. The Chinese teen set the first women's world record since the super suits were banned two years ago. She shattered it, actually, knocking more than a second off Stephanie Rice's winning time from the 2008 Olympics (Rice tied for sixth Saturday with the other American, Caitlin Leverenz, in her defense). Ye's teammate, Li Xuanxu, took bronze.

Ye, 16, overtook Beisel on the final 100 meters -- the freestyle portion -- and slammed the door shut by swimming the final 50 in 28.93 seconds, faster than both the gold and silver medalists in the men's 400 IM.

"She had the race of her life," said Beisel, who led by .81 seconds after 300 meters and was beaten by 2.84 seconds. "Congratulations to her a million times over. It's definitely hard getting second, but I can't complain at all. The race was really hard, and maybe it didn't go the way I wanted it to, but I'm definitely appreciative with how the outcome was."

From speaking with Beisel's family, friends and peers, the consensus was she was thrilled with a medal of any color. Yes, Beisel was the clear 400 IM favorite coming in, the reigning world champion with the fastest time in the world each of the last two years. She then swam another personal best in the morning prelims.

But she clocked another personal best in the final, and it took a world record to beat her. Also, look back four years ago when Beisel was the youngest U.S. Olympic swimmer. She posted the fastest prelim time in the Beijing 400 IM and was fourth in the final. Later, she had the second fastest semifinal time in the 200 backstroke and wound up fifth.

"It's definitely a lot better than what I felt four years ago," Beisel said. "Four years ago, I was sort of just like a deer in the headlights. I didn't really know what to expect. I was probably not very well prepared as to what it was like to be in an Olympic final. But now, I think this time I'm a lot more mature, and I have a lot more experience under my belt."

Experience she'll take into her second and final event of the Olympics, the 200 backstroke on Wednesday and Thursday. Beisel was second in the 200 back at the Olympic trials to gold-medal favorite Missy Franklin and ranks seventh in the world this year.

"I don't really expect too much from that," she said. "I'm just going into it with an open mind and hoping for the best. A medal of any color would be great."