World Record Flashback: Natalie Coughlin Becomes First Woman to Break 1:00 in 100 Back at 2002 US Nationals in Fort Lauderdale

Natalie Coughlin became the first woman to break 1:00 on August 13, 2002 at the US Nationals in Fort Lauderdale. Photo Courtesy: George Olsen / Swimming World Archive

Natalie Coughlin became the first woman under 1:00 in the 100 back on August 13, 2002 at the US Nationals in Fort Lauderdale. She swam a 59.58 to lower 1:00.18 American Record from 2001 Worlds and also the 1:00.16 WR from He Cihong at the 1994 Worlds.

Coughlin would go on to break the 100 back WR four more times in her career. She was the first woman under 1:00 and 59 in the event. She took it all the way down to a 58.97 at the 2008 Olympic Trials.

Coughlin had been chasing the record for a while. In a 2002 article on Swimming World, she was quoted:

“I kept thinking, ‘tonight is the night, tonight is the night,'” Coughlin said. Tonight was the night.

“I was glad I finally did it, glad to get it over with. It takes a lot of pressure off me.”

Race Results

  1. Natalie Coughlin, 59.58
  2. Diana MacManus, 1:02.30
  3. Courtney Shealy, 1:02.65
  4. Haley Cope, 1:02.71
  5. Jamie Reid, 1:02.97
  6. Maureen Farrell, 1:03.09
  7. Margaret Hoelzer, 1:03.24
  8. Beth Botsford, 1:03.28

Swimming World’s Phillip Whitten wrote at the time:

When Coughlin hit the turn in 28.86 seconds, she brought the capacity crowd to its feet. They stayed on their feet, cheering loudly, as the 19 year-old University of California sophomore powered home.

The turn was not the only thing she hit. When asked if the four-foot deep pool was a problem, she said: “I did hit the bottom of the pool with my feet — not with my head — a couple of times,” echoing the comments of numerous competitors.

As the winds picked up and storm clouds hovered threateningly over the pool, Coughlin said she was “worried about lightning and just wanted to get the race over with.”

She needn’t have worried. The only lightning tonight was produced by Natalie, herself.

He’s record was universally regarded with suspicion. Three weeks after the Rome World Championships, seven members of the Chinese National Team tested positive for steroids. At the 1996 Olympics, where drug testing was tightened, He could only swim a dismal 1:05.98.

World Record Progression (last 15 records)

  • 1:00.59, Ina Kleber, GDR (1984)
  • 1:00.31, Krisztina Egerszegi, HUN (1991)
  • 1:00.16, He Cihong, CHN (1994)
  • 59.58, Natalie Coughlin, USA (2002)
  • 59.44, Natalie Coughlin, USA (2007)
  • 59.21, Natalie Coughlin, USA (2008)
  • 59.15, Haley McGregory, USA (2008)
  • 59.03, Natalie Coughlin, USA (2008)
  • 58.97, Natalie Coughlin, USA (2008)
  • 58.77, Kirsty Coventry, ZIM (2008)
  • 58.48, Anastasia Zueva, RUS (2009)
  • 58.12, Gemma Spofforth, GBR (2009)
  • 58.10, Kylie Masse, CAN (2017)
  • 58.00, Kathleen Baker, USA (2018)
  • 57.57, Regan Smith, USA (2019)

History of the Hall of Fame Aquatic Center in Fort Lauderdale

In 1926, one of the worst hurricanes on record sucker-punched Broward County, killing an estimated 325 people and prompting Fort Lauderdale’s mayor to declare martial law. It also paved the way for the city to embrace the idea of Commodore Auylen Harcourt Brook, who believed promoting swimming and the building of a “concrete pond” would fuel the ailing local economy and help revitalize the area.

The Fort Lauderdale Sentinel supported the idea of a bond issue, and on June 28, 1927, proclaimed: “With such a bath house, our excellent beach, now notably popular, will become far more popular and a genuine attraction in drawing visitors to the city, both summer and winter.”

Estimated to cost $90,000 and criticized for costing $130,000, the Las Olas Casino came to be considered one of the city’s best ever investments.


Photo Courtesy: Calis Publishing Company

In November 1961, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) of the United States issued a request for proposals from cities interested in hosting a National Swimming Hall of Fame. Fort Lauderdale saw this as an opportunity to replace the aging Casino Pool and to create “the cultural asset of a museum that marks one of the greatest traditions of our city.”

In early 1962, Mayor Burry, after consulting with Florida’s Governor, Farris Bryant, created the “Mayor’s Swimmers’ Hall of Fame Citizens Committee” which included the entire City Commission and 30 civic leaders. On November 9, 1962, the City Commission unanimously approved”

“A resolution indicating that the City of Fort Lauderdale is interested in establishing the facility known as “The Swimming Hall of Fame” in the City of . Fort Lauderdale and is in a position to present its plans therefor.”

On November 27, 1962, the AAU unanimously selected Fort Lauderdale’s bid over the bids of Houston and Louisville.

The success of the International Swimming Hall of Fame as a driver of economic development did not go unnoticed by other cities. By the mid-1980’s, as other cities emulated our example and as new standards were developed, the city realized it was time to upgrade and renovate the entire complex.

After two years of construction, the newly renovated facility opened in August 1991, to host the USA Swimming National Championships with two new world records set.

Over the years, the International Swimming Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex has been one of the city’s primary attractions by drawing national and international media attention through its competitions, exhibitions, conferences and the unique one-of-a-kind museum that has brought Presidents, Senators, Princes and celebrities to this city for almost 50 years.

On July 10, 2018 the Fort Lauderdale City Commission authorized staff to negotiate a design-build contract for the renovation of the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center with Hensel Phelps Construction Company in the not-to-exceed amount of $27,000,000.


Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex construction as of August 12, 2019; Photo Courtesy: Andy Ross

Construction company Hensel Phelps was awarded a design-build contract on August 21, 2018 with a guaranteed maximum price of $26,995,368 based upon their own diligence and the design criteria package in the City’s Request for Proposals outlining specifications, requirements and 30% schematic designs. At the same City Commission meeting, the Commission authorized a new 30-year lease with the International Swimming Hall of Fame museum.

The new lease agreement and modernizing of the municipal pool facility will restore Fort Lauderdale’s standing in the competitive swimming and diving world by continuing the great tradition of aquatic sports, that will enrich the local community and inspire new generations of swimmers and divers.

New elements of the pool facility design include a new main competition pool (53m X 25m), a new diving pool (25m x 25m) and dive tower with five platform levels and multiple 1m and 3m springboards, a new spa, instructional pool and grandstand building with spectator restrooms, concessions, ticket office, and metal bleachers to accommodate 1,500 spectators. Repairs will be made to the existing training pool (50m x 25y) with new filtration, surfacing and gutters. Additional site improvements will include new surface parking and drainage system, new stadium lighting, landscaping, sidewalks, and a new main entry plaza. The renovation of the men’s and women’s locker rooms will be addressed under a separate task order for design services using a design firm from the City’s continuing services contract.


Artist’s rendition for the Fort Lauderdale Hall of Fame Aquatic Center renovations; Photo Courtesy: Hensel-Phelps

The City has recently budgeted an additional 2.7 million dollars to include a 27 meter diving high tower which will be the only one in the western hemisphere.


Photo Courtesy: Hensel-Phelps


    • Thor Larson

      Angela Price yes I do! I also remember her swimming at the Kerr-McGee Pro-AM meet in Oklahoma City where she negative-split her 200 FR and went 1:47!

    • Angela Price

      Thor Larson I remember you making me watch her underwaters!

  1. Laura Voet

    Faster in Fort Lauderdale. 👏🏻🌤🌴🌊💙💦