Olympics, Swimming: Flash Stephanie Rice Clocks World Record to Win 200 IM

By John Lohn

BEIJING, China, August 13. MUCH of the pre-Olympic speculation had Australian Stephanie Rice and American Katie Hoff battling it out for the gold medal in the individual medley disciplines. While Rice stayed in that picture, it was Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe who proved to be her primary competition.

Duplicating the finish of the 400 individual medley, when both women broke the existing world record, Rice and Coventry posted a gold-silver finish in the 200 IM, with the duo again breaking the global standard. Rice registered the victory in 2:08.45, faster than the 2:08.59 of Coventry and the old world mark of 2:08.92.

Coventry, who has three silver medals in Beijing, had an advantage of Rice at the 100- and 150-meter marks, but the Aussie standout split 30.09 on the closing leg to overtake Coventry, who had a final-lap split of 30.32. American Natalie Coughlin, who held the lead after the opening butterfly leg, picked up the bronze medal with a time of 2:10.34.

"It was such a tough race," Rice said. "I really struggled getting in. I am so glad I put it out there this morning. It's really good being next to Natalie Coughlin. She pushed me through the first 100."

Completing the second half of an extremely difficult double, Katie Hoff was fourth with a mark of 2:10.68. It was Hoff's second fourth-place finish of the morning, going with the same result in the 200 free, where she set an American record. The winner of silver in the 400 freestyle and bronze in the 400 IM, Hoff still has the 800 freestyle and 800 free relay remaining.

Placing fifth was Australia's Alicia Coutts in 2:11.43 and Japan's Asami Kitagawa, who won a swimoff to advance to the final, was sixth in 2:11.56. The seventh-place finisher was Canada's Julia Wilkinson in 2:12.43 and Poland's Katarzyna Baranowska was eighth in 2:13.36.

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