Cal Junior Swims Backward Into History

For detailed race results about Coughlin and other Bears at the U.S. National Championships, check the Daily Cal Sports Section next Tuesday.

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Sometimes the best just keep getting better.

Cal junior Natalie Coughlin surprised no one Tuesday when she set the world record in the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. National Championships.

Becoming the first woman to break the one-minute mark in the event, Coughlin's time of 59.58 seconds shattered the previous record of 1:00.16, set by China's Cihong He of in 1994.

Natalie Coughlin

The 19-year-old Coughlin came close to passing the mark before, setting the American record of 1:00.18 last summer and posting the then third-fastest time of 1:00.19 this June at the Santa Clara Invitational.

Considering Coughlin faltered in both of these races, hitting the lane line in the first and missing her flip turn in the second, it was just a matter of time before the backstroke record was hers.

The other swimmers in Tuesday's championship race didn't pose a challenge to Coughlin. After only 50 meters, Coughlin led by nearly a full body length.

Along with her second 100-meter backstroke national title, Coughlin earned two more titles in her first three days of racing. Races continue through Saturday so she may still add a few more titles.

Monday, Coughlin edged out 10-time Olympic medalist and Stanford alumna Jenny Thompson in the 100-meter butterfly with a time of 58.49.

Wednesday, Coughlin set the U.S. Nationals meet record of 1:58.20 in the 200-meter freestyle.

In both of her seasons swimming at Cal, Coughlin was named NCAA and Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year. She now holds three world and 24 American records.

This summer USA Swimming named Coughlin June's Swimmer of the Month. It was the second time she won that award this year.

For her accomplishments at the national championships this week, she will likely take her third such award for the month of August.

The results of the U.S. National Championships help determine team selections for future events, such as the 2003 World Championships and the 2003 World University and Pan American Games.

By claiming the 100-meter butterfly title Monday, Coughlin qualified for the Pan-Pacific Championships in Yokohama, Japan, later this month.


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