BEIJING (Reuters) - Australia’s Stephanie Rice completed a golden Olympic individual medley double with the tightest of victories in world record time in the 200 meters event on Wednesday.
Rice, who won the 400 medley on Sunday, prevailed in a duel with Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry on the final freestyle leg, clocking two minutes, 8.45 seconds to slice 0.47 seconds from the 2:08.92 world mark she set in Sydney in March.
Coventry, second to Rice in the 400 IM and second to American Natalie Coughlin in Tuesday’s 100 backstroke, had to settle for her third Beijing silver, a tantalizing 0.14 seconds behind the Australian and also inside the old world record.
Coventry led at the end of the backstroke and breaststroke legs after Coughlin had swum quickest on the opening butterfly but she could not deny Rice, hot on the chase just 0.09 seconds behind at the final turn.
Coughlin grabbed the bronze in 2:10.34, completing a medal set after gold in the 100 backstroke and silver in the 4x100 freestyle relay.
“Now I’ve got one of each color, so I’m happy,” she said.
Rice, 20, is the first female swimmer to win two gold medals at the Beijing Olympics after she also broke the world record to win the 400 individual medley.
“I feel great, it’s so good I pulled through. I felt a little sick last night but I was up for the challenge and tried to get the best out of myself,” Rice said.
She succeeds Ukraine’s Yana Klochkova, who completed the same double in both 2000 and 2004 but after a dip in form did not defend her titles in Beijing, where she is swimming the relays.
Rice said she had definitely had a fight on her hands.
“It was so great for me to have them pushing me along, it got the best out of me,” she said.
“It hasn’t really sunk in what’s happened, I’m trying not to think about the end result before I finish swimming but I’m happy with what I’ve put into this meet and happy with what I’ve achieved.”
Katie Hoff finished a frustrating fourth, 0.34 seconds behind fellow American Coughlin, still seeking an elusive gold after picking up a silver and a bronze this week.
“I wasn’t as fast as I wanted in the 200 IM. I did my best, that’s all I can do,” Hoff said.
(Additional reporting by Martin Petty)
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)