ABURN, AL., December 6. THERE a stars, there are superstars and then there's Natalie Coughlin.
Two weeks ago at the World Cup meet in The Big Apple [the 1998 Goodwill Games Pool in East Meadow, Long Island] the Cal junior set a handful of sc meters world records — in November, with nothing to prove — merely because she loves to swim fast (isn't that her middle name, "speed"?)
So what does she do for an encore?
How about yet another American record, this one in the 200 yard freestyle, on Day 2 of the Tiger Invitational here at the James E. Martin Natotorium here — site of next March's NCAA Division 1 women's swimming and diving championships.
Coughlin blasted to a 1:42.65 clocking, breaking the old U.S. Open/NCAA record of 1:43.08 by former Southern Methodist star Martina Moravcova, who swims for Slovakia internationally; and the old American-record of 1:43.28 by Florida's Nicole Haislett.
Coughlin's time also broke her old pr, Cal and Pac-10 record of 1:43.30 from last February's championshps at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool. That swim was history's third-best 200 ever (performer-performance) and is now relegated to fourth.
Double M set her record at the 1997 NCAAs in Indianapolis while Haislett's recorfd had stood the test of time since the '92 NCAAs at Texas. Interestingly, six months after her win in Austin, Haislett stood atop the victory podium at Barcelona wearing the Olympic gold medal around her neck for having won the 200 free.
Coughlin doesn't have any Olympic golds yet (she didn't make the plane to Sydney two years ago), but she has the world lcm record in the 100 back, has a World Championship gold in that race and if she isn't in Athens come 18 months from now there'll be a bigger investigation than Watergate.
She also has six NCAA individual golds in her two championship meets, the maximum possible, and at the national collegiate championships has set American/ NCAA standards in each of her races (100-200 back, 100 fly). To top that she led off Cal's 400 free relay last March at Texas in a blistering 47.47, breaking the meet, NCAA and American record of 47.56 by Georgia's Maritza Correia from just moments earlier when the latter won the 100 free race itself.
(Coughlin swam the 200 back on the final day of NCAAs, Correia the 100 free.)
Below is a comparison of Coughlin's, Moravcova's and Haislett's splits:
COUGHLIN (Auburn, 12/06/02)
50 100 150 200
24.10 50.44 [26.44] 1:16.77 [26.44] 1:42.65 [25.88]
MORAVCOVA (Indianapolis, 03/21/97)
23.97 50.16 [26.19] 1:16.20 [26.54] 1:43.08 [26.38]
HAISLETT (Austin, 03/20/92)
24.48 50.58 [26.10] 1:16.99 [26.41] 1:43.28 [26.29]
Coughlin actually trailed Moracova's pace at 150 yards by more than a half-second (0.57). However, her blistering 25.88 final 50 put paid to the old record — by far the fastest final 50 by any woman… ever! When she did that 1:43.30 at Pac-10s she came home in 27.12.