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LONDON, England, August 1. IT was just a matter of time before USA's Rebecca Soni hit on all cylinders, and the women's 200-meter breaststroke semifinals proved to be that time at the 2012 London Olympics.
The defending Olympic gold medalist, Soni clocked a world record in the event with a clean 2:20.00 en route to the top seed. That swim bettered the 2:20.12 posted by Canada's Annamay Pierse during semis of the 2009 World Championships during the techsuit era, and also took half-a-second off the textile best of 2:20.54 turned in by Leisel Jones in 2006. Incidentally, the swim also eclipsed Soni's American record of 2:2022 from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and her American textile best of 2:20.69 from Pan Pacs in 2010. Soni looks in control of becoming the first swimmer to ever defend a women's 200 breaststroke Olympic gold medal, after finishing more than two seconds ahead of the field.
“I felt there was no pressure. I just wanted to feel it and see how it went. I just went for it,” Soni said. “You'll see that records are becoming faster worldwide and it's going to be great. Anything can happen tomorrow so I'll save my best for that. I'm really excited, I just have to do it one more time.”
Denmark's Rikke Pedersen qualified second in 2:22.23 to move to ninth all time in the event. She would like to join Else Jacobsen (1932) and Inge Sorensen (1936) as the only other medalists from Denmark in the event. Both took bronzes at their Olympics.
Japan's Satomi Suzuki picked up the third seed with a 2:22.40, while Russia's Yuliya Efimova, Soni's training partner with the Trojan Swim Club, placed fourth in 2:23.02.
“I swam almost perfectly and relaxed in the heat as I swam next to (Rebecca) Soni, so I was more nervous than the heat,” Suzuki said. “I swam fast from the first half. I was advised not to be too distant from the leader in the race so I was a bit hasty. But if I get hasty then my stroke becomes smaller so I tried to swim as usual.”
South Africa's Suzaan van Biljon posted an African record with a fifth-place 2:23.21, while USA's Micah Lawrence (2:23.39), Canada's Martha McCabe (2:24.09) and Australia's Sally Foster (2:24.46) also made the finale.
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