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LONDON, England, August 3. THE world record in the women's 200-meter backstroke fell, and fell in a big way to start the evening at the 2012 London Olympics as USA's Missy Franklin blistered the field.
Franklin dominated the event start-to-finish with a stunning time of 2:04.06 (29.53, 1:00.50, 1:32.16, 2:04.06) en route to blasting Kirsty Coventry's world record of 2:04.81 set during the 2009 World Championships in Rome during the techsuit era. That time cut more than a second from Franklin's lifetime best of 2:05.10 set at the 2011 World Championships, which stood as the American record. Incidentally, Franklin also smashed Coventry's Olympic record of 2:05.24 from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The win gave the U.S. its third distance dorsal title, tying it with Hungary for the most golds. Lillian Watson (1968) and Melissa Belote (1972) are the other American victors.
“I think it is awesome that so many swimmers have been able to break world records when a lot of people didn't think we'd be able to,” Franklin said. “[The techsuits] kind of motivated us. We wanted to get better and to show people we don't need the suits. It's not the suit that makes the swimmer, it's the swimmer that makes the suit. I had the time of my life out there.”
The triumph gave Franklin her third gold medal of the meet, along with the 100 back and 800 freestyle relay. She is the first swimmer since Diana Mocanu of Romania in 2000 to sweep the backstroke events. Along with her bronze from the 400 free relay, Franklin how has four medals altogether as part of a seven-event slate.
Russia's Anastasia Zueva cleared 2:06 to take silver in 2:05.92. That's well off her now third-ranked time of 2:04.94 from the 2009 World Championships, but definitely enough to give her an initial Olympic medal. She took fourth in the 100 back earlier this week and fourth in this event in 2008.
“I am really pleased with the result. I am happy with my time, it's my personal best [in textile],” Zueva said. “To get a gold I need to train more, because the (winning) time was very fast. I think the Russian team is just starting to pick up in this Olympics. Since Yuliya(Efimova) got the medal last night (women's 200m breaststroke bronze) and she just passed the excitement on to the team. I am very thankful to the team. There are not many Russian supporters in the crowd. I am sure they are in front of the TV at home but they are not here. So I am very thankful to the team support and even the media support.”
USA's Elizabeth Beisel snared the final podium spot with a 2:06.55, just off her lifetime best of 2:06.18 to lead earlier qualifying. The bronze gave Beisel her second medal of the meet, along with her 400 IM silver, and is an improvement from her fifth-place finish in the event in 2008. That is the first time the same country earned a pair of medals in the event since East Germany in 1988.
Great Britain's Elizabeth Simmonds (2:07.26) and Australia's Meagen Nay (2:07.43) finished fourth and fifth, while two-time defending champion Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe missed her chance as a threepeat. Only Dawn Fraser, Krisztina Egerszegi and Michael Phelps have pulled off that feat. Coventry took sixth in 2:08.18.
France's Alexianne Castel earned seventh in 2:08.43, while Canada's Sinead Russell placed eighth in 2:09.86.
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