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Omaha, Nebraska – Teen sensation Missy Franklin booked her first Olympic berth Wednesday, ushering in a new era in the 100m backstroke as defending two-time gold medalist Natalie Coughlin failed to qualify.
The 29-year-old Coughlin, seventh-fastest in the semi-finals, took the race to the bevy of talented teenagers challenging her, leading at the turn ahead of 18-year-old Rachel Bootsma.
But the 17-year-old Franklin reeled her in, winning in 58.85, with Bootsma taking second place – and the other London Games spot – in 59.49.
Coughlin, the first woman ever to swim the event in less than a minute, was third in 1:00.06.
“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.”
Coughlin had already failed to qualify in the 100m butterfly. She opted not to swim the 200m medley at the trials, but has another chance to make a third Olympic team, in the 100m freestyle.
“It's not exactly what I was hoping for coming into this,” Coughlin 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 (metres) free, and I'm looking forward to that. For the rest of this season, I'm a freestyler.”
If she can make the team and win one medal in London, Coughlin would join swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated US women Olympians. They each have 12 medals, although the 45-year-old Torres is back this year for one more tilt at the 50m freestyle.
Franklin, who was on the US world championship team with Coughlin last year, said she was “praying” that Coughlin would go to London.
“I have learned so much from her, and I plan to learn so much from her,” Franklin said. “She has made such an incredible name for herself, and to be part of it and watch her while she is doing incredible things is amazing.” – Sapa-AFP