FUKOUKA, JAPAN - On the final day of the 2001 World Swimming Championships in Fukouka, Japan, Cal’s Natalie Coughlin had an impressive lead-off butterfly leg on the United State’s 400-meter medley relay that placed second to Australia.
The U.S. put a strong medley relay lineup together, but a phenomenal fly leg by Petria Thomas of Australia allowed them to edge the U.S. for gold, 4:01.50 to 4:01.81. Coughlin nearly broke the world record in her lead-off swim (100-meter back), posting a 1:00.18, just .02 off the mark set at the 1994 World Championships by a Chinese swimmer that was part of a delegation that later had several positive drug tests for performance enhancing drugs. Megan Quann swam her leg in 1:07.67, followed by Mary DeScenza (59.59) and Erin Phenix (54.37). Thomas split 57.65 on her fly leg for the Aussies, the only one of the four to swim faster than her American counterpart.
“I’m very proud of how our entire team swam this week in spite of the difficulties,” Coughlin said. “We really picked it up in the last few days and I’m proud of how we handled ourselves.”
Another swimmer with Cal ties, Haley Cope (1998-2001), placed sixth in the 50-meter free on Sunday with a time of 25.25.
In a credit to Cal’s men’s and women’s swim programs, three different Bears won gold medals at the World Championships. Anthony Ervin, who will be a junior this collegiate season, won world titles in the 50 (22.09) and 100 free (American record 48.33). Cope placed first in the 50-meter back (28.51) and Coughlin, who will be a sophomore this upcoming school year, was the world champion in the 100-meter back (American record 1:00.37).