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1 August 2009
Harare — KIRSTY COVENTRY once again cemented her place among the world's swimming immortals when she emerged from the just-ended 13th FÍNA World Championships in Rome, Italy, with two medals - one gold and a silver.
The United States-based Zimbabwean swimming sensation, who turns 26 next month, also consolidated her place as the best female swimmer in the 200m backstroke after setting a new world record time of 2 minutes 04.81 seconds on Saturday night.
This was her third 200m backstroke world title.
Olympic swimmer Kirsty Coventry
Coventry then followed up her record-breaking feat on Saturday by winning a silver medal in the 400m individual medley event on the last day of the championships on Sunday night.
She clocked 4:32.12 when coming second behind Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, who clinched the gold medal in 4:30.31.
But it was Coventry's world-record breaking feat, in the 200m backstroke, that helped her hog the limelight.
After failing to land a medal in the 200IM and 100m backstroke, some critics thought that Coventry was now over the hill and would not make any impact in Rome.
But she rose to the occasion by sweeping to victory in the 200m backstroke, setting a world record in the process, on Saturday night.
The sprightly Zimbabwean showed plenty of fire as she swam 2:04.81 to beat her previous best mark of 2:05.24 which she set in winning gold at last year's Beijing Olympics in China.
Asked if the victory made up for finishing eighth and last in last Tuesday's 100m backstroke final, she told reporters: "Yes, definitely. I don't think I've had the worst meet of my life. My 100 back was a bit disappointing but I've come back strongly.
"I think I went out a little too hard. The last 25 I was dying."
Russia's Anastasia Zueva took silver, just like she did in the 100 final.
She also broke the world record in her 50m semi-final but ended up fourth in that final.
Elizabeth Beisel of the United States came third.
Coventry, like Americans Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, and Briton Gemma Spofforth, notched her world record in the 200m backstroke in the outdated Seedo LZR Racer, rather than one of the newer polyurethane suits that fuelled Rome's record rampage.
Coventry was looking forward to a rule change in January limiting the technology which she thinks will decide who are real swimmers out there and hopes to be still among them.
Meanwhile, Hungary's Hosszu outdid big name rivals Coventry and Stephanie Rice of Australia to win the women's 400m individual medley on the last and final day of the world championships on Sunday.
Hosszu claimed victory in 4:30.31 seconds, with Coventry second and Australian Olympic champion Rice in third place.
The Hungarian went out quickest and vied with Coventry for the lead for most of the race.
The Zimbabwean had her nose in front at the last turn, but Hosszu accelerated in the last 50m to strike gold after winning bronze in the 200m medley and 200m butterfly races.
For Coventry, who came second to Rice in both Olympic medley finals, it was her second medal of the week after she sealed 200 backstroke gold with a world record on Saturday.
Rice had to haul herself up from sixth place at half-way to land another individual podium place after her silver in the 200 medley.
All in all, it ended up being a good outing for Coventry, the seven-time Olympic medallist who rose "from the dead" to lit up the Rome championships on Saturday by setting a world record in the 200m backstroke.
An incredible 43 world records were set at the world championships that concluded at the Foro Italico on Sunday night.
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