By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, July 1. GIVEN their programs vary greatly, Katie Hoff and Natalie Coughlin rarely get the chance to go head-to-head. But with Coughlin's recent decision to contest the 200 individual medley, a showdown is brewing. By the time the final of the shorter medley concludes, don't be shocked if both women go under the world record, currently held by Australia's Stephanie Rice at 2:08.92.
Hoff and Coughlin recorded the two-fastest times of the prelims, clocking respective efforts of 2:12.02 and 2:12.21. Hoff's performance arrived in the 14th of 15 heats while Coughlin did her work in the final heat. Hoff was the American-record holder in the event until Coughlin went 2:09.77 in early June.
The third seed was collected by Whitney Myers, the 2006 Pan Pacific champion in the 200 IM and the third-fastest American in history. Myers produced a time of 2:12.24 in winning her heat. Swimming in the lanes surrounding Coughlin, Ava Ohlgren and Ariana Kukors qualified fourth and fifth for the semifinals, thanks to times of 2:12.28 and 2:12.38.
In an event that required 2:15.68 to return for the night session, Caitlin Leverenz qualified in the No. 6 spot with a showing of 2:13.30, slightly faster than the 2:13.45 of Kaitlin Sandeno and the 2:13.97 of Julie Stupp. Amanda Beard, in what has to be a good sign for her 200 breast later in the week, was ninth in 2:13.99.
"I'll give it what I can tonight, and hopefully make top eight and get to finals," Sandeno said. "It's been a good career, unfortunately this isn't one of my best meets.
"I had severe bronchitis two weeks ago," Sandeno continued. "I finished my antibiotics three days ago. I was quarantined fro the rest of the team. If anything, I might be a little over rested. I also had a freak accident, which happened at practice. I swam weird, so that could be part of it. I'm going to get surgery as soon as I can once I get back to Orange Country. I just try not to worry about it, because that's when I got sick. My mom was in town with me. It was so horrible, I should just go home now. But, I gotta go one more time because this is it. You do what you can do."
Rounding out the field for the semifinals were Elizabeth Beisel (2:14.58), Alicia Aemisegger (2:14.70), Jenny Forster (2:14.71), Dagny Knutson (2:15.01), Justine Mueller (2:15.36), Caroline McElhany (2:15.64) and Kirsten Smith (2:15.68).
Video Footage Removed Due to NBC Restrictions
Go to Swimming World's 2008 Olympics Landing Page for the most comprehensive coverage of the meet on the Internet.