LONDON - Rachel Bootsma didn't touch water on Saturday night, but she got her feet wet in the style of so many young American swimmers, winning her first gold medal at her first Olympics.
Bootsma, of Eden Prairie, swam the backstroke in the 400-meter medley relay heat on Friday when the team qualified for the finals. Saturday, the four swimmers who competed in the heat were replaced by Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and Allison Schmitt, who set a world record in 3:52.05 at the Aquatics Center.
Bootsma received a gold medal for being a part of the winning team.
"It's amazing to have a gold medal in my hands," Bootsma said. "But it's kind of bittersweet. ... This medal just gives me more motivation going into training, because I want a medal of my own that I can truly say I earned."
Bootsma did not qualify for the finals last Sunday in her specialty, the 100-meter backstroke. It seemed she was done for the Olympics until she swam in the medley relay prelims. Bootsma will compete in college at Cal and has her sights set on a trip to Rio for the 2016 Games.
But she at least contributed this year to a remarkable effort from the Americans, who won 30 swimming medals.
RACHEL BLOUNT AND Jim Souhan