IRVINE, California, July 20. THERE'S a chance that Natalie Coughlin, the world-record holder in the 100-meter backstroke and the only woman in history to crack the one-minute barrier in the event, will not race her pet discipline at the United States Nationals. The possibility of Coughlin bypassing the 100 back in Irvine was reported by the Orange County Register earlier this week.
According to the newspaper article, Coughlin is leaning toward contesting the 100 butterfly and the 100 and 200 freestyles. The 200 free is on the same day as the 100 back and Coughlin is expected to have a showdown with Katie Hoff in the four-lap freestyle. Coughlin has looked phenomenal in her tuneup meets during the summer and is poised to produce sterling performances at Nationals and the Pan Pacific Championships.
If Coughlin does skip the 100 backstroke at Nationals, she'll likely race the event at Pan Pacs, a meet that also factors into the selection of Team USA for next year's World Champs in Melbourne. At Pan Pacs, swimmers can enter a variety of events, provided they've qualified for the meet. In the 100 back, Coughlin would need to produce a time better than the second-place mark recorded at Nationals. Given Coughlin's dominance in the event, that scenario is likely.