Coughlin Misses on 200m Freestyle
Paul Newberry, AP
Thu Jun 28, 3:59 AM UTC
Missy Franklin left no doubt that she is swimming's next big star with a stunning performance in the 100 backstroke, signaling a changing of the guard in an event Natalie Coughlin captured at the last two Olympics.
Coming back to the pool just 20 minutes after qualifying for the final of the 200 freestyle, the 17-year-old "Missile" chased down Coughlin on the return lap to win with an American record of 58.85.
"I have dreamed of this moment, but I never thought it would come true at 17 years old," Franklin said. "Dreams do come true."
Coughlin got off to a typically strong start and was under world-record pace at the turn. But the 29-year-old couldn't hold off two teenagers. Eighteen-year-old Rachel Bootsma got past the 11-time Olympic medalist, as well, claiming the second Olympic spot in 59.49.
Coughlin was third in 1:00.06 and has only one more chance to make her third Olympic team: the 100 freestyle. She swam over to congratulate Franklin in the middle of the pool, but her chances of making a third straight Olympic team are hanging in the balance.
She hopes to have a shot at winning at least one medal in London, which would pull her even with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated U.S. female Olympians.
"I did exactly what I needed to do tonight and gave it my best. That's really all you can ask for," Coughlin said. "I have won two golds in that. I am very proud of what I've done in the 100 backstroke and it's time for Missy and Bootsma."
Thompson and Torres each have 12 medals, and the 45-year-old Torres is back trying to make one more Olympic team. She has entered only one event in Omaha and has yet to swim.
Coughlin is down to her last chance in 2012.
"It's not exactly what I was hoping for coming into this," she said. "I'm a little bummed, but not nearly as much as everyone is expecting me to be. You're walking around the pool deck and people are acting like you're dying or something. I have another shot to make the team in the 100 free, and I'm looking forward to that. For the rest of this season, I'm a freestyler."
In another final, Breeja Larson pulled off a huge upset in the 100 breaststroke, beating Rebecca Soni and world-record holder Jessica Hardy. Larson won in 1:05.92, while Soni rallied to get the second spot on the team at 1:05.99.
"Maybe after tonight my dad owes me a steak dinner," said Larson, who is competing in her first trials. "After the steak has settled in, I might believe it."
Hardy finished third - about a half-second too slow to earn a spot in London. She was eager for redemption after missing out on the 2008 Olympics because of a failed doping test, which resulted in a one-year suspension. An arbitration panel reduced the normal two-year ban, ruling that Hardy was the victim of a tainted supplement.
"It was a great race for me," said Hardy, who still has a shot to make the team in the 100 free. "I think I held it together. I'm happy with it. I gave it a good shot."
Also, Matt Grevers captured the men's 100 backstroke with the second-fastest time ever, 52.08. Nick Thoman finished second in 52.86 to take the second spot on the Olympic team.
"I wanted to for the world record after prelims," said Grevers, who was only 14-hundredths off Aaron Peirsol's mark. "I'm the guy to shoot for now, and I like that."
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