2012 London Olympics: Ye Shiwen Sets Olympic Record, Textile Best; Caitlin Leverenz, Ariana Kukors Make Finals

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LONDON, England, July 30. AFTER setting the world record in the women's 400-meter IM on the first night, China's Ye Shiwen looks like a lock to sweep the IM events after posting an Olympic record in the 200-meter IM semis at the 2012 London Olympics.

Ye, 16, threw down a 30.59 final 50 meters to set an Olympic record and textile best in the shorter distance medley with a 2:08.39. That swim bested Stephanie Rice's Olympic record of 2:08.45 set in her 2008 triumph. It also bested Ye's overall textile best of 2:08.90 clocked both at the 2011 World Championships and in prelims this meet. Her time tonight pushed her to fifth all time, and is just off Qi Hui's Asian record of 2:08.32 from the techsuit era. The question remains if she can track down the world record of Ariana Kukors, who blasted a 2:06.15 in the event at the 2009 World Championships during the heyday of the techsuit era.

“It was a tough competition and I tried my best,” Ye said. “I just train well and perform well and keep on going.”

Australia's Alicia Coutts, who placed third in the women's 100 fly last night even after getting suck during the race, is gunning for her third Olympic medal of the meet after posting a second-seeded 2:09.83. She also helped the Aussies to a win in the 400 free relay on the first night. Coutts would love to join defending Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice and Shane Gould (1972) as the only Australians to win this event since it began in 1968.

“I just went in and swam my own race,” Coutts said. “[Ye] might have gone 2:06 tonight. You just don't know what is going to happen. I just wanted to make the final and I'm in the final and I'm happy. Hopefully I'll get a good sleep tonight.”

Team USA fielded the best two spots with Caitlin Leverenz (2:10.06) and Kukors (2:10.08) qualifying third and fourth. Leverenz is vying for her first worldwide international medal after taking sixth in the 400 IM earlier this week and fifth and eighth in the 200 IM and 400 IM, respectively, in 2011. She did earn bronze at the more regional Pan Pacific Championships in both the IMs in 2010.

“It was good. I think I put myself in a good lane and a good position,” Leverenz said. “My job is to go out there and do my job. It's not my job to fingerpoint [when asked about Ye Shiwen]. It's FINA's job to deal with that. The Chinese have had a history of doping, so it's not crazy to point the finger, but it's not my job.”

Kukors, the world-record holder, is vying for her first Olympic medal of any kind. She won this event at the 2009 World Championships with her world record, and took third in 2011. Hungary's Katinka Hosszu qualified fifth in 2:10.74, while defending champ Rice posted a sixth-seeded 2:10.80. Rice is vying to join Yana Klochkova as two-time winners of the event after topping the 2008 meet.

“I'm stoked to be in the final,” Rice said. “I'm excited to be able to swim and have the chance to represent Australia again tomorrow. I know that if anyone has a chance they'll have to go past the Chinese girl (Ye Shiwen).”

Great Britain's Hannah Miley finished seventh in 2:10.89, while defending silver medalist Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe earned the last transfer spot with a 2:10.93 for eighth. Coventry has won a medal in this event in the past two Olympics. First taking bronze in 2004, then silver in 2008.

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