OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – 17-year-old Missy Franklin of Colorado 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 won at the last two Olympics.
Coming back to the pool just 20 minutes after qualifying for the final of the 200 freestyle, Franklin 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 started strong 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.
In another final Wednesday, Matt Grevers captured the men’s 100 backstroke with the fastest time in the world this year, and Nick Thoman claimed the second spot on the Olympic team. Also, Breeja Larson pulled off a huge upset in the 100 breaststroke, beating Rebecca Soni and world-record holder Jessica Hardy. Soni rallied to get the second spot on the team, but Hardy finished third — about a half-second too slow to earn a spot in London.
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