Olympics, Swimming: Kirsty Coventry Clocks Olympic Record in 200 IM Semis

By John Lohn

BEIJING, China, August 12. BASED on the firepower headed to the championship final of the women's 200 individual medley, the race is going to be a dandy. Four of the premier ladies racing this week will line up tomorrow morning with only three medals available. Yes, a big name is going to be shut off of the podium.

Not long after they went gold-silver in the 100 backstroke, Natalie Coughlin and Kirsty Coventry won their heats of the 200 IM, Coventry notching an Olympic record of 2:09.53 and Coughlin touching the wall in 2:11.84. Coughlin will be the fourth seed for the final, following Australia's Stephanie Rice and American Katie Hoff.

Rice was second to Coventry in the first semifinal, going 2:10.58 to place just ahead of Hoff, who was timed in 2:10.90. Rice was the winner of the 400 IM earlier in the meet, setting a world record en route to victory. Coventry has won a pair of silver medals this week and Hoff has a bronze in the 400 IM and a silver in the 400 free. Then there's Coughlin, who defended her Olympic title in the 100 back.

Canada's Julia Wilkinson and Australia's Alicia Coutts tied for the fifth spot in 2:12.03 while seventh went to Poland's Katarzyna Baranowska in 2:12.13. Japan's Asami Kitagawa and Hungary's Evelin Verraszto tied for eighth in 2:12.18, but Kitagawa, on the strength of her breaststroke leg, won the swimoff for the last slot in the final. She was timed in 2:12.02 to the 2:14.96 of the Hungarian.