Flash! World Championships: United States Takes Down World Record in 800 Free Relay; Natalie Coughlin Sets American Record in 200 Freestyle

By John Lohn

MELBOURNE, Australia, March 29. IN the morning, the United States found itself holding its breath just to qualify for the final of the 800 freestyle relay. At night, the American foursome of Natalie Coughlin, Dana Vollmer, Lacey Nymeyer and Katie Hoff took the crowd's breath away with a world-record performance.

Powered by Coughlin's American-record setting leadoff leg of 1:56.43, the United States produced a time of 7:50.09 to lower the former record of 7:53.82. That effort was turned in last summer by Germany at the European Championships. As for Coughlin, her time bettered the 1:57.09 that Hoff generated in the final of the 200 freestyle.

After Coughlin put the U.S. in a blow-away lead, Vollmer delivered a split of 1:57.49. Nymeyer kept the Americans well out in front with an effort of 1:59.19 and Hoff anchored the squad home in 1:56.98. The chance for the United States to pop a world record almost never existed as the Stars and Stripes grabbed the eighth and final bid to the final. Only Nymeyer was on the morning relay.

"I had no idea what I was doing," Coughlin said of her leg. "I couldn't see anyone and didn't know if I was going fast or not, but it felt strong."

Although it lost its world record, Germany won the silver medal in 7:53.82, thanks to the anchor leg of Annika Lurz. Preceded by Meike Freitag, Britta Steffen and Petra Dallman, Lurz turned in a split of 1:56.28. Meanwhile, France was the bronze-medal winner behind the unit of Alena Popchanka, Sophie Huber, Aurore Mongel and Laure Manaudou. The Frenchwomen clocked in at 7:55.96 to hold off Australia (7:56.42). Great Britain was fifth in 7:57.02.

Click Here to view event results PDF file.