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LONDON, England, August 1. DEFENDING Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Soni dominated prelims with an Olympic textile best in the women's 200-meter breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympics.
Soni scorched a time of 2:21.40. That swim smashed the Olympic textile best of 2:23.37 set by Amanda Beard at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and is the 15th fastest time ever in the event. Soni now has seven of the top 15 times all time in the distance breaststroke. Soni is vying for her fifth Olympic medal, and is looking to be only swimmer to ever defend the women's 200 breast title.
“I wasn't going for a time this morning, just a feel and it felt great,” Soni said. “It definitely motivates me. I have been training so hard for the 200m this year and I think I did really great for the 100m considering I haven't been practising it as much. It definitely helped me refocus on the 200m and at least I know my strengths lie in the longer distance.”
Denmark's Rikke Pedersen qualified second in 2:22.69 (a national record), and would like to move Denmark out of the bronze column in the event. The only two previous medals for Denmark in the event are bronzes from Else Jacobsen (1932) and Inge Sorensen (1936). Pedersen finished eighth in the 100 breast earlier this week, and took seventh in this event at the World Championships. She has yet to win an international long course medal. Her top finish is second in the 100 breast at the 2010 European Championships.
“I'm overwhelmed to get the Danish record. Now I hope my coach will give me credit, but I think he'll say I can still do better,” Pedersen said. “I'm really touched by this. I just didn't see it coming.”
Japan's Satomi Suzuki placed third in 2:23.22, and is vying to become the first medalist for her country since Kyoko Iwasaki won in 1992, while USA's Micah Lawrence gave the Stars and Stripes another medal contender with a fourth-place 2:24.50.
“I was quite relaxed, and I tried to swim as well as I could. I had an awareness that I wasn't doing well at the 200m race, but in the end I could perform as I practiced,” Suzuki said. “I had so many emails and messages which I couldn't even finish reading. They cheer me up and relax me.”
Russia's Anastasia Chaun qualified fifth in 2:25.39, and is a bounce-back story. She missed the world championships last summer due to health issues after a blood draw for a drug test. She's returned to the international scene and could put together a medal run.
Sweden's Joline Hostman (2:25.39), China's Ji Liping (2:25.76) and Korea's Suyeon Back (2:25.76) qualified sixth through eighth.
South Africa's Suzaan van Biljon (2:25.94), Australia's Sally Foster (2:26.04), Morocco's Sara El Bekri (2:26.05), Japan's Kanako Watanabe (2:26.38), Canada's Martha McCabe (2:26.39), Russia's Yuliya Efimova (2:26.83), Korea's Darae Jeong (2:26.83) and Australia's Tessa Wallace (2:26.94) also made semis.
Defending bronze medalist Sara Nordenstam of Norway took 23rd in 2:27.90, while 2009 world titlist Nada Higl of Serbia placed 25th in 2:28.38.
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