U.S. Olympic Trials: Flash Natalie Coughlin Breaks 59, Sets World Record in 100 Back

By John Lohn

OMAHA, Nebraska, July 1. THE Golden Girl struck again.

One day after lowering her world record in the 100 backstroke during the preliminary round, Natalie Coughlin became the first woman in history to break the 59-second mark. The reigning Olympic champion produced a time of 58.97 to erase the 59.03 she had established a little more than 24 hours earlier.

Coughlin has long considered the 100 backstroke her baby and there's no doubt she's the greatest performer in history in the event. She split 28.45 at the turn, well under world-record pace, and managed to be fast enough on the back half to break her mark. It was only the start of the night for Coughlin, who later contested the semifinals of the 200 individual medley.

"I don't know if it is because I am getting older and I know a lot more people on the team," Coughlin said. "But I know this is the most emotional event I've ever been to. I'm cheering for so many people. I'm glad I got my ticket for Beijing, and am so relieved. I wish there was room for so many more on the team. There's limited room, and I wish we could have so many more people on the team. I feel a huge wave has been listed."

Best known as the world champion and American-record holder in the 200 backstroke, Margaret Hoelzer qualified for Beijing in the shorter back when she touched the wall in 59.21, just ahead of the 59.42 of Hayley McGregory, who briefly held the world record Monday in 59.15. McGregory has been haunted at the Olympic Trials, as she finished third in both backstrokes at the 2004 Olympics.

With a bit of a tip from the incomparable Phil Whitten, we discovered the last time we can remember that someone broke a world record during prelims but did not make the team.

Here is an excerpt from the Swimming World article back in 1972 about the time:

Kurt Krumpholz, 18, of Coach George Haines' Santa Clara Swim Club set a world record in the 400 free, 4:00.11, but indicative of the keen competition, Krumpholz failed to make the team in the finals.

There was a major dropoff after the top three swimmers as Lauren Rogers picked up fourth place in 1:00.78, ahead of the 1:01.03 of Presley Bard and the 1:01.40 of Elizabeth Beisel, expected to challenge for a 200 back spot later in the week. Seventh went to Leila Vaziri (1:01.42) and eighth went to Katie Riefenstahl in 1:01.59.

"What a relief," Hoelzer said. "I still have my best event yet to come. It'll be nice to focus on the time there and not my place. I'm going my best times here and I'm more of a 200 girl. I was thinking I could maybe back-half it. I'm thrilled."

Full Results

Video Footage Removed Due to NBC Restrictions
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