ROME, Italy, July 26. ARIANA Kukors of the U.S. smashed the women's 200 IM world record during semifinals at the FINA World Championships. The swim gave the meet its third straight world record in three events this evening.
Kukors demolished Stephanie Rice's world record of 2:08.45 with an astounding time of 2:07.03. She did so with Rice in the next lane. The swim may not have happened if not for Elizabeth Pelton scratching the event to slot Kukors onto the U.S. squad.
"I am just really happy to be here," Kukors said. "I took advantage of swimming right next to Stephanie Rice. Every chance I get to race her, I know it is going to be a good race. I came in the underdog, and I made a lot of changes the last two weeks. I focused on the small things, and it really added up."
Rice finished second in qualifying with a 2:08.68, nearly on her world-record pace, while Great Britain's Hannah Miley placed third in 2:09.46. Denmark's Julie Hjorth-Hansen took fourth in 2:09.87 with Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry checking in with a 2:09.91 to tie Hungary's Evelyn Verraszto for fifth.
"It is going to be a tough race with the girls that are in it," Coventry said. "It is going to come down to who has the little bit extra tomorrow. My mindset has been a lot more relaxed this year. There's a bigger smile on my face, and I think that helps."
Hungary's Katinko Hosszu qualified seventh in 2:10.01 with France's Camille Muffat finishing eighth in 2:10.08.