Virtually unknown globally before the start of the year, the 19-year-old became Britain's first female Olympic swimming champion in 48 years, when she won two gold medals in Beijing in the 400 and 800 metres freestlye.  In the 800m, she also broke one of the oldest records in sport, beating the 19-year-old world record of American Janet Evans from March 1988 by more than two seconds.  Adlington, who had not even made the England Commonwealth Games team in 2006, initially came to attention in April 2008 when she won the 800 metres freestyle gold medal in the World Short Course Championships in Manchester.

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