By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, March 26. IT had the potential to be a special race, and the outcome produced just that. Reversing their finish from two years ago, Australia's Libby Lenton held off countrywoman Jessicah Schipper for the gold medal in the 100 butterfly, thanks to a championship-record performance of 57.15.
The silver medalist at the World Championships in Montreal in 2005, Lenton picked up her second gold medal of the competition, complementing the hardware she won as a member of the Australian 400 free relay on the opening night of action. Lenton was out in 26.58 to the 26.74 of Schipper and found a way to hold on for the triumph, as Schipper touched in 57.24.
"It was a great feeling to put it together," Lenton said. "Obviously you can't ask for a better start than that but I do have to put a cap on my emotions."
Not to go overlooked by the Aussie finish was a spectacular showing by the United States' Natalie Coughlin, who picked up the bronze medal in an American-record time of 57.34. Coughlin held the lead at the 50-meter mark, turning in 26.40, and managed to bring it to the wall quick enough to wipe the U.S. standard of Dara Torres from the books. Torres clocked 57.58 at the 2000 Olympic Trials in Indianapolis.
Known for her speed, Lenton was expected to be ahead of Schipper at the turn. It was a question of whether she had enough juice to fight off her teammate, the world-record holder in the 200 fly and obviously able to close the gap coming into the wall. Lenton proved she could hold on. The fourth-place finisher was the Netherlands' Inge Dekker (58.30) and American Rachel Komisarz was fifth in 58.34.