By John Lohn
BEIJING, China, August 13. REBECCA SONI is well on her way to claiming her second medal of the Beijing Games, and she just might be ready to give Leisel Jones a battle for the gold. The silver medalist in the 100 breaststroke, Soni was superb over the longer distance, setting Olympic and American records.
In control throughout her race, Soni produced a time of 2:22.17 that erased the Olympic standard of 2:23.37 and the American record of 2:22.44. Both marks were held by Amanda Beard. Of course, Soni will have her hands full with Jones, the world-record holder in the event and the silver medalist at the Athens Olympics. Jones won her prelim heat in 2:23.81.
Austria's Mirna Jukic was third after the opening round, thanks to a time of 2:24.39 while racing adjacent to Jones. That heat also produced the fourth qualifier, Norway's Sara Nordenstam (2:24.47). Japan's Rie Kaneto (2:24.62) and countrywoman Megumi Taneda (2:24.75) sit in the fifth and sixth positions.
Canada's Annamay Pierse turned in a strong showing of 2:25.01 to take seventh while Russian Yuliya Efimova was next in 2:25.07. South Africa's Suzaan van Biljon (2:25.51) and Australia's Sally Foster (2:25.54) took ninth and 10th. The rest of the semifinal field features Seulki Jung of Korea (2:25.95), Sweden's Joline Hostman (2:26.00), China's Qi Hui (2:26.16), German Anne Poleska (2:26.74), Belgium's Elise Matthysen (2:27.04) and Korea's Darae Jeong (2:27.28). Beard, the defending champion, was 18th in 2:27.70 and failed to advance to the semifinals.