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Steffen betters Lenton's 100m world record

3 August 2006

Germany's Britta Steffen bettered Australian Libby Lenton's women's 100 metre freestyle world record in a dramatic day at the European swimming championships.

Steffen took out the final in a time of 53.30 seconds, shaving 0.12 seconds off the previous record set by Lenton at the Commonwealth Games trials in January.

In the other women's finals Laure Manaudou of France won the 800 freestyle, Ukrainian Ganna Khylstunova won the 100 breaststroke and Esther Baron of France was first in the 200 backstroke.

In the two men's finals, Pieter van den Hoogenband won the 200 freestyle and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary won the 200 individual medley.

Steffen gave clear signs she was in top form when she helped Germany eclipse another Australian world record in the 4x100 freestyle relay by swimming her leg in 52.66, the fastest ever.

Her individual record was noteworthy because she practically quit the sport last year, when her best time of 56.37 was not even among the 100 best in the world.

"In 1999 I won six titles at the junior European championships ... but in 2004 I was only in the preliminaries of the relay at the Olympics," Steffen said.

"In 2004, I decided more to go for my studies. Then I came back to swimming and now my goal is to swim in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing."

Manaudou won the 800 free in 8:19.29, her first gold of the championships. She was expected to try for a record number of golds in Budapest, but she failed to reach the final of her first event - the 400 individual medley.

Manaudou had an explosive start in the 800, going almost 2.5 seconds ahead of the record pace after 200 metres. At 400, she was still more than two seconds up but fell behind the pace at 600 and finished more than three seconds slower than Janet Evans' world record of 8:16.22.

Still, Manaudou's time broke the European record held by Anke Mohring of Germany, who swam 8:19.53 in 1987.

Manaudou broke Evans' 18-year-old world record in the 400 freestyle in May, when she also won eight golds at the French championships.

Van den Hoogenband won his race in 1:45.65, well ahead of Massimiliano Rosolino and Filippo Magnini. It was Van den Hoogenband's first major title since winning gold at the 2004 Olympics. He was sidelined last year by a hernia operation.

"This is so nice. ... I had to fight so much for the last couple of years," Van den Hoogenband said.

"I've won a lot of titles, but this is a tremendous kick."

Van den Hoogenband was on Ian Thorpe's world-record pace through 150 metres, but he faded in the final length, needing more than 27 seconds to finish the last 50 metres.

"One of my opponents came up to me and said, 'The boss is back,"' the Dutchman added.

"That is one of the nicest compliments, that I could get so much respect." 

AP