ROME, Italy, July 27. GREAT Britain's Gemma Spofforth blistered the women's 100 back preliminary heats at the FINA World Championships.
She missed the world record by the slimmest of margins with a 58.78 out of heat 11. Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry held onto the global mark by just .01 seconds with a 58.77 from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Spofforth's time smashed her European record of 59.05 also set at the Olympics, and cleared the meet record of 59.44 set by Natalie Coughlin in 2007.
Russia's Anastasia Zueva nearly joined Spofforth under 59 with a sterling time of 59.01. That effort bettered her national mark of 59.16 set at the Olympics. Coventry qualified third overall with a 59.51, while Australia's Emily Seebohm checked in with a fourth-seeded 59.64.
Japan's Shiho Sakai (59.80), China's Gao Chang (59.84), United States' Hayley McGregory (59.91) and Great Britain's Elizabeth Simmonds (1:00.04) made up the top eight.
Japan's Aya Terakawa (1:00.18), Russia's Mariya Gromova (1:00.32), Germany's Daniela Samulski (1:00.34), United States' Elizabeth Pelton (1:00.47), Brazil's Fabiola Molina (1:00.53), Denmark's Pernille Jessing Larsen (1:00.67), China's Zhao Jing (1:00.79) and France's Alexianne Castel (1:00.80) completed the semifinal field.