IRVINE, Calif. May 30. EACH time Natalie Coughlin hits the water, expectations soar through the roof. Never mind if Coughlin’s in the middle of heavy training, the swimming community demands dazzling efforts. Sunday, Coughlin delivered.
Competing on the third day of the Speedo Grand Challenge, held at the Woollett Aquatic Center, Coughlin notched a pair of victories, as she defeated the competition in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, her pet event. Coughlin will race both disciplines at this summer’s World Championships in Montreal.
Going head-to-head with Alena Popchanka, Coughlin won the 100 free in a quality time of 55.15. Popchanka, who recently changed her citizenship from Belarussian to French, placed second in 55.21, along with Great Britain’s Melanie Marshall. Marshall was coming off a Saturday victory in the 200 free, where she was timed in 1:58.60.
Following her decision in the two-lap freestyle, Coughlin easily won the 100 back in 1:01.89. The world-record holder and only female in history to crack the one-minute barrier, Coughlin finished ahead of Aya Terakawa, who recorded a time of 1:02.62.
The top swim on the male side was turned in by Rolandas Gimbutis, an Olympic semifinalist from Lithuania who is flourishing for the University of California. Gimbutis finished the 100 free in 49.75, slightly quicker than the 49.84 of Salim Iles, an Algerian Olympian. Nick Brunelli was third in 50.10.
Joanne Jackson, who collected victory in the 400 free on Friday, added a triumph in the 200 butterfly, as she was timed in 2:12.68. Jackson was joined as a British winner by James Gibson and Kirsty Balfour in the 200 breaststroke events. Gibson won the men’s race in 2:19.64 while Balfour was clocked in 2:28.41. Caitlin McClatchey also posted a British victory, thanks to a first-place performance in the 800 free (8:37.07).
Going 15:31.44, Justin Mortimer secured top honors in the men’s 1500 freestyle. Mortimer bested Larsen Jensen and Chad LaTourette. Jensen, the Olympic silver medalist, was second in 15:41.25 and LaTourette went 15:43.54. Other men’s winners were Tamas Kerekjarto in the 200 butterfly (2:01.72) and Liam Tancock in the 100 backstroke (56.56).