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Columbia Missourian

Women's swimmers first to set records at Grand Prix

By BRETT KNIGHT Missourian
February 16, 2008 | 7:47 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — When former distance swimming star Janet Evans checks her phone, she’ll have a rude awakening: her 20-year-old American record in the 400-meter freestyle was toppled Saturday in the first of two record-breaking performances at the Missouri Grand Prix.

Katie Hoff, the 18-year-old star of the U.S. national team, beat Evans’ mark by over a second-and-a-half in the 400-free finals session, establishing a world record of 4:02.20. After the race, Hoff’s coach sent a text message to Evans to let her know of Hoff’s accomplishment.

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“I’m really shocked to be going that fast right now,” said Hoff, who also won the 100-meter freestyle. “The race felt good... I’m still in shock.”

Hoff stressed what an honor it was to break the record of the “distance queen” Evans, who established the former record on Sep. 22, 1988, almost a year before Hoff was born. Evans’ mark was the oldest American record still standing.

Hoff’s race was actually the second record-breaking swim of the day. Earlier, in the 200-meter backstroke, Kirsty Coventry established the world record, edging the previous time by .23 seconds.

“I’ve wanted it for a long time now, so to get it, and it’s even better to get it in before the Olympics,” Coventry said. “I’m even more excited for the summer.”

Coventry, a member of Zimbabwe’s national team and the gold medalist at the Athens Olympics in the event, attributed part of her success to increased strength due to weight training.

She also said it was exciting to have a record swim without resting from her training schedule and to swim so fast in a morning race. The Beijing Olympics will also hold finals sessions in the morning.

This marks the second consecutive year that the Missouri Grand Prix has seen a world record swim. Last year, Michael Phelps set the world record in the 200-meter butterfly.