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FLASH!! Coughlin Breaks American Record in 200m Backstroke, Oldest Mark in the Books -- August 16, 2002 Natalie Coughlin accepts her award after breaking the American record in the 200m back (2:08.53).  On her left is Jamie Reid (second); on her right is Margaret Hoelzer (third). 2002 LCM Nationals

By Phil Whitten

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Aug. 16. NATALIE Coughlin did it again.

The 19 year-old phenom won her fifth title here -- a feat accomplished previously only by Tracy Caulkins in 1978 -- and she broke the oldest national record in the books.

Coughlin clocked 2:08.53 for the 200m backstroke, just 7-hundredths under Betsy Mitchell's 2:08.60, set June 27, 1986. Coughlin's time was the fastest in the world this year.

Coughlin went out hard, taking a full bodylength lead by the 25 meter mark. She split 29.73 for the first 50, well under Kristina Egerszegi's world record pace.

At the 100 she touched in 1:01.85, still well ahead of the Hungarian's pace. As Richard Quick pointed out, Coughlin's first 100 equaled Mitchell's best 100 -- which, at the time, was the American record.

Coughlin fell behind WR pace on the third 50 (1:35.19), then came storming home for the American record.

Jamie Reid wsas second in 2:11.62.