Texas A&M's Breeja Larson wins breaststroke at Olympic Trials

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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OMAHA, Neb. -- It was the same ol', same ol' in the men's 200-meter freestyle with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Phelps got a measure of revenge against Lochte, who beat him in the 400 IM on Monday, by winning Wednesday night's second head-to-head showdown at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

But it was something of a changing of the guard in the women's 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke.

Breeja Larson became the first swimmer from Texas A&M ever to win at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She beat Rebecca Soni, the best breaststroker in the world, and world-record-holder Jessica Hardy, in the 100 breaststroke.

"It's incredible," A&M coach Steve Bultman said. "She dropped like two seconds at this meet alone. It was just a phenomenal swim."

Larson's time of 1:05.91 beat Soni by .07, was 12th-best all time and topped her previous personal best of 1:06.52, which she had set in qualifying. After she saw her name listed first on the Jumbotron, Larson reacted in surprise.

"You know, I think maybe after tonight my dad owes me a steak dinner," Larson said. "I think after the steak has settled in, I might believe it."

Larson, 20, didn't start swimming competitively until three years ago and was hardly recruited out of Mesa, Ariz. Yet, she set four A&M records as a freshman and then broke the NCAA record twice this spring as a sophomore, while winning the NCAA title.

She becomes the second Aggie to make the U.S. Olympic swim team. Christine Marshall won a bronze medal with the 800 free relay at the 2008 Beijing Games.

As Larson was doing interviews in the mixed zone, Tyler Clary briefly interrupted to offer her congratulations. Suddenly, everyone knows Larson's name.

"I'm excited to meet everyone," Larson said. "I see them walking by, and I want to introduce myself and say, 'Hi,' but I don't want to be a fan. My coach tells me, 'You get to this meet just like everyone else. Don't be a fan; be a swimmer.'

"Now I get to meet them, and I'm really excited."

Everyone already knew Missy Franklin's name, but she officially became the face of women's swimming when she won the 100 backstroke. The 17-year-old touched in 58.85, setting a new American record.

Natalie Coughlin, who won the past two Olympics in the event, had owned that record. Coughlin, 29, missed qualifying in her best event, finishing third in 1:00.06, and has only the 100 freestyle left in her attempt to make a third Olympic team.

"I did exactly what I needed to do tonight and gave it my best," Coughlin said. "That's really all you can ask for. ... I am very proud of what I've done in the 100 backstroke, and it's now time for Missy and [18-year-old Rachel] Bootsma."

It always is Phelps and Lochte's time. Every time they swim, it seems, the rest of the field is racing for third. Phelps was disappointed in his time of 1:45.70, but it was better than Lochte's 1:45.75.

"We're going to have a lot of races like that over the next couple of weeks and probably a couple more this week," Phelps said. "That's just how it seems to shake out whenever we're in the water. I think one of the things that I always do is I race as hard as I can in the pool. I race from start to finish of a race and never let up."

Some wondered if Lochte's victory Monday in the 400 IM was the signaling of a possible coronation. But Phelps' answered Wednesday with a resounding "not so fast."

"Sure, he was a little frustrated," Bob Bowman, Phelps' long-time coach, said. "It's always psychological stuff going on. It's always good to win. Winning is never bad."

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFLCharean

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