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Steffen leads sweep in 50

June 17, 2007|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

For Britta Steffen of Germany, the first report in April from Sydney was one part alarming and one part ominous.

Not only did someone swim faster than her world-record time of 53.30 seconds in the 100-meter freestyle, but her Australian rival Libby Lenton became the first woman to drop under 53 seconds, going 52.99.

Additional news helped clarify the result from the Duel in the Pool in Sydney between the United States and Australia.

"When she heard the time, she did not know that [Lenton] swam against [Michael] Phelps, right?" said Steffen's national team head coach, Orjan Madsen, who was translating for Steffen. "She said, 'Oh my God, I lost my world record.' It just shows how it's possible to swim faster than the world record, but at the same time, it has to be done in regular conditions."

Lenton squared off against Phelps in the leadoff leg of a mixed 400-meter relay. Australian officials promptly contacted FINA, the international governing body of swimming, and received indications that the mark was valid, but ultimately, the record time was not ratified because the event is not certified by FINA.

Steffen was talking Saturday on the pool deck after her second individual victory at the TYR Swim Meet of Champions at Mission Viejo. She led a German sweep of the top three spots, winning the 50 freestyle in 25.89.

So, has Steffen ever competed against any men in her native Germany?

"Never, and that is also not allowed in Germany," Madsen said. He added, jokingly: "Those stupid rules, you know."

Steffen said she agreed with FINA's decision but smiled widely when asked whether she would like to race Phelps, answering in English: "Yes."

Steffen has two meet records in two days, having won the 100 freestyle Friday and cheerfully offered her bouquet of flowers to a reporter after the 50.

But it's hardly a one-woman show in Mission Viejo. The meet is quickly turning into the Steffen and Ziegler show. Distance star Kate Ziegler won the 200 freestyle in 1:58.80, setting her third meet record here and becoming a viable contender for the U.S. 800 relay team. The other meet record Saturday came from Rebecca Soni of the Trojan Swim Club in the 200 breaststroke (2:27.10).

"I'm very excited about my 200," Ziegler said. "One of my main goals, going into '08, is to get my 200 down to a fast enough time where I could make the relay. It's always nice to represent the U.S. as an individual, but when you're on that relay, there's something special."

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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