Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Cal junior Natalie Coughlin broke the world record in the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. National Championships and became the first woman to swim the race in under one minute. Her record time of 59.58 broke China’s Cihong He’s 1994 mark of 1:00.16.
“This is very exciting. It’s a huge barrier in the sport of swimming and for it to be an American to break the world record is awesome,” said Cal head swimming coach Teri McKeever. “She definitely delivered when she needed to.”
The championships, which take place from August 12-17, is used as a consideration for team selection to such events as the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships, 2003 World Championships and 2003 World University and Pan American Games.
Coughlin has now set three world records to go along with her 24 American records. In her brief career, she is a two-time NCAA Swimmer of the Year, has won six individual NCAA titles and was named the recipient of the 2001-02 Honda Sport Award Winner for swimming April 3. She also was a finalist for the AAU James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete earlier this year and recently was one of five nominees for an ESPY award as Best Female Collegiate Athlete.
In Monday’s opening events, Coughlin edged out 10-time Olympic medalist Jenny Thompson in the 100 fly and also placed in the 400-meter free relay, along with Danielle Becks, Staciana Stitts and Haley Cope, as the team finished fourth with a time of 3:48.79.