By Stephen J. Thomas
ATHENS, Greece August 16. IT has been a long time coming for world record-holder Nat Coughlin. Not even the strong wind blowing off the Aegean would deny her tonight.
Coughlin, who turns twenty-two next week, has not had an easy road to gold, battling a shoulder injury earlier in her career and, of course, the disappointment of the illness that beset her on the eve of the World Championships last year in Barcelona.
Tonight she used her signature powerful start to full effect and was the first to flip, the only swimmer under 29-seconds (28.89) — just 0.03 outside her world record split. However, the race was not over yet. It became a real struggle in the second half to hold off a fast-closing Kirsty Coventry from Zimbabwe, who took full advantage of the shelter from the wind close to the stands in lane one, and French star Laure Manaudou before she touched in 1:00.37.
Coughlin said of her race, " I was hurting out there, those last few meters, obviously I wanted to go faster than one minute but the medal is great." And on winning gold, " It's too hard to put into words, I have had so many ups and downs over the past years but now I have a gold medal and I have that for life," she said.
Coventry took the silver lowering the African record yet again to 1:00.50 (8th all-time performer) with Manaudou the bronze in 1:00.88.
Manaudou the gold medalist in the 400 free last night was not overly happy with her performance. "I thought I could have done better than the American, I didn't make a good start and it was hard for me to come back. I'm disappointed, I don't like to lose."
World Champion German Antje Buschschulte was very disappointing finishing sixth in 1:01.39.
Women 100m Backstroke Finals
Record Split Name NOC Location Date
WR 59.58 28.86
COUGHLIN Natalie USA Fort Lauderdale (USA) 13 AUG 2002
OR 1:00.17 29.21
COUGHLIN Natalie USA Athens (GRE) 15 AUG 2004
Event No: 7
Rank Lane Name NOC R.T. 50m Time Time
1 4 COUGHLIN Natalie USA 0.60 (1) 28.89 1:00.37
2 1 COVENTRY Kirsty ZIM 0.70 (3) 29.68 1:00.50
30.82 0.13 AF
3 5 MANAUDOU Laure FRA 0.73 (4) 29.86 1:00.88
4 8 NAKAMURA Reiko JPN 0.64 (2) 29.66 1:01.05
5 7 ZHIVANEVSKAYA Nina ESP 0.66 (8) 30.03 1:01.12
6 3 BUSCHSCHULTE Antje GER 0.67 (6) 29.90 1:01.39
7 6 OERNSTEDT Louise DEN 0.70 (7) 29.93 1:01.51
8 2 COPE Haley USA 0.67 (5) 29.88 1:01.76