Dubai, World s/c Championships, day 4 finals:
Women's 100m breaststroke
Rebecca Soni (USA) took first blood in a new era of battles with the breaststroke queen of the past decade, Leisel Jones taking silver in a final that ended 1:03.98 to 1:04.26 in the American's favour. The bronze went to Ji Liping (CHN) in 1:04.79, which locked Rikke Moeller Pedersen (DEN) into the most painful of places by the most painful of margins, 0.01sec.
Champion in a championship record, Soni, coached by Dave Salo at USC, ends the year as second-best ever in a textile suit: Jones clocked 1:03.63 back in July. It was that swim that held part of the explanation of where Jones lost the fight tonight.
In July, Jones turned in 30.42. Tonight, Soni flicked round a fraction ahead of Jones at the first turn on her way to a 30.59sec split, the Australian just 0.01sec away. The third lap saw the American rocket off the wall and lift her stroke rate and drive the pace up a notch. Jones faltered, lost critical ground. Indeed the margin of defeat was the margin she lost in the first 15m off the second wall.
Soni emerged to say that she had "just put my head down and hoped for the best". The next two years were just about "training hard and doing my best". She later added with a nod to the potentially lethal nature of Leisel: "It was a great race, another fast race and a little tough this time. I definitely saw Leisel next to me and I tried to out-swim her. I'm now excited about the 200m after the 50 and the 100m: I'm excited to do what I'm used to."
Asked what her relationship with the Australian was like: "It's always great race Leisel. We talk in the changing rooms before the race, we chat a lot to distract ourselves."
For Jones, coached by Rohan Taylor in Melbourne, despite all that long-course success in the past decade, the silver marked her first appearance on the podium at world s/c titles in the 100m breaststroke.
She said: I just feel like my long-course is stronger, this is just a stepping stone on the path. I got very close to Rebecca and I'm very happy about that. I've really loved having a little bit more time at this meet and feeling a little fresher in my swims." And with that she was off to "focus in the trials for Shanghai". No 200m this time round.
History in the making:
World s/c Podiums
Most world titles in this event: never retained
Records (TB = best ever in a textile suit)
Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 5
All-time textile rankings top 5:
From the archive:
Deep down in the annals of world breaststroke records there are complications that knock debates about what to do with shiny suit marks into a cocked hat. On May 9, 1951 in Moscow, Eva Szekely (HUN) set a world mark of 1:16.9 in what has since become known as a short-course pool. It would be 1965 before the world record would be faster, though six women would hold seven world records in between. Two complications arose: firstly, an adjustment was made for the the split in breaststroke and butterfly than ended the practice of using dolphin arms on breaststroke. FINA set a standard time os 1:18.2, matching the mark set by Nel Van Vliet (NED) in Arnhem on April 28, 1947, when swimming traditional breaststroke. Then, when FINA decided that from May 1, 1957, it would impose a new rule dictating that world records could only be established in pools 50m long, it set another standard time of 1:21.0. On what basis that judgment was made is hard to tell. What we do know is that Karin Beyer (GDR) was the holder of the first two marks inside the standard time, on 1:20.3 and 1:19.6. Three others Germans and an American later, enter Svetlana Babanina (URS) with a 1:17.2 in 1964. Finally, on May 11, 1965 Babanina, racing in Tashkent, clocked 1:16.5, confining all that went before 1952 to history on all levels.