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SHANGHAI, China, July 25. THE host nation erupted with joy when China's Ye Shiwen became the first swimmer in a textile suit to break the 2:09 barrier in the women's 200 IM at the FINA World Long Course Championships.
Ye dropped the hammer on the final two laps of the race, much to the delight of the Chinese in Shanghai, and clocked an astonishing time of 2:08.90. That swim eclipsed her previous textile best of 2:09.37, and gave hope that maybe a textile-clad swimmer might track down Ariana Kukors' world record of 2:06.15 from the techsuit era. Ye's time from this evening is the 10th fastest of all time.
"I am satisfied with my swim," Ye said. "Before the race, I was very nervous. I'm weak in the butterfly, so I was trailing in the first leg. At one moment, I thought that I couldn't catch up with the leaders, so I just gave it all I had. With about 20 meters to go, I was quite sure that I could win."
Australia's Alicia Coutts nearly joined Ye under 2:09 with a scorching time of 2:09.00 for silver to give the Aussies a second consecutive silver medal in the event. Stephanie Rice took second to Kukors of the U.S. back in 2009. Kukors, meanwhile, settled for bronze with a 2:09.12.
"I'm really happy and excited," Kukors said. "Ye was incredible in the last 50 meters. I am incredibly happy, like I said yesterday, a couple of girls had the chance to win."
Ye's win is the first for China in the event since the drug-tainted victory by Wu Yanyan back in 1998. Heading into the techsuit era, Wu's 1997 world record of 2:09.72 had always been the benchmark for swimmers in the event. With Rice's fourth-place 2:09.65, four swimmers went under that former world record.
USA's Caitlin Leverenz (2:10.40), Hungary's Katinka Hosszu (2:11.24), Great Britain's Hannah Miley (2:11.36) and Canada's Julia Wilkinson (2:16.18) also were part of the historic race.