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W100 Breast: Sparkling Soni Keeps Her Crown

Jul 26, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 3 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

Women's 100m breaststroke

Rebecca Soni (USA) retained the 100m breaststroke crown with a sparkling 1:05.05 ahead of former world champion and Olympic champion Leisel Jones (AUS), on 1:06.25, the battle for bronze a tight affair in which China's Li Jiping kept Yuliya Efimova (RUS) at bay by 0.04sec in 1:06.56. 

At 50m, Soni, coached by Dave Salo in California, was almost a second down on training partner Jessica Hardy's world mark set in a non-textile suit but she raced inside the split that swept her to victory at Rome 2009. Then 31.03, now 30.70, with Jones breathing down her neck on 31.15.

The edge she had down the first lap turned into the towering strength of a homecoming 34.35 victory dash for Soni, no other swimmer in the line up capable, at least today, of breaking 35sec, Jones on 35.10, fast-finishing Efimova on 35.00, Ji on 35.23 and able to hang on to the bronze. In winning, Soni joined Jones in the club of three women to have retained the title since 1975, the first to do so Luo Xuejuan (CHN) in 2003.

"I think this is pretty much what we are going to see in London next year," Jones said. "There is still a long way to go. Today was a great practice for London. I think it will be very similar."

The result:

  • 1. Rebecca Soni (USA) 1:05.05
  • 2. Leisel Jones (AUS) 1:06.25
  • 3. Ji Liping (CHN) 1:06.52
  • 4. Yuliya Efimova (RUS) 1:06.56
  • 5. Sun Ye (CHN) 1:07.08
  • 6. Rikke Pedersen (DEN) 1:07.28
  • 7. Jillian Tyler (CAN) 1:07.64
  • 8. Moniek Njihhuis (NED) 1:07.97

The splits compared:

  • 2007: 30.83; 1:05.09 Leisel Jones (AUS) Melbourne
  • 2009: 31.00 1:04.93 Rebecca Soni (USA) Rome
  • 2011: 30.70; 1:05.05 Rebecca Soni (USA) Shanghai 2011 

History in the making:


  • WR (all suits): 1:04.45 Jessica Hardy (USA) Federal Way, August 2009
  • WR (textile):   1:04.91 Rebecca Soni (USA) Shanghai 2011 (semis)
  • First woman inside 1:07: Penny Heyns (RSA) 1:06.99 Los Angeles, July 18, 1999
  • First woman inside 1:06: Leisel Jones (AUS) 1:05.71 Melbourne, February 3, 2006
  • First woman inside 1:05: Rebecca Soni (USA) 1:04.93 Irvine, August 19, 2010

World-class stats: 

  • World Record wins: Julia Bogdanova (URS); Sylvia Gerasch (GDR); Sam Riley (AUS)
  • Title retained: Luo Xuejuan (CHN); Leisel Jones (AUS); Rebecca Soni (USA)
  • Biggest margin: Ute Geweniger (GDR) beat joint silver medallists Anne Ottenbrite (CAN) and Kim Rhodenbaugh (USA) by 1.89sec
  • Closest shave: Kirsty Kowal (USA) beat Helen Denman (AUS) by 0.09sec in 1998

From the archive

The first 100 and 200m world titles went to Renate Vogel (GDR), who in 1979 fled from East Germany. Year later, she spoke out about the steroids that swimmers were forced to take, saying: “When I started ripping my shirts, I knew something was up." In 1974 the testosterone injections started. Of mastermind Dr Lothar Kipke, she said: "He was a sharp operator, a hard man. He had absolutely no conscience."

When Leisel Jones won the 2007 crown for Australia in 1:05.72, she drew the Dolphins level with the GDR on gold count, on four a piece. In 2009, the Olympic champion opted to bypass the world titles. The crown went to Rebecca Soni (USA) in 1:04.93, with Yuliya Efimova (RUS) on 1:05.41 and Kasey Carlson (USA) on 1:05.75. In 2010, Soni matched her Rome speed, on 1:04.93 for the Pan Pacific title, while Jones was getting back to best on 1:05.66 for silver behind the American. Closets to them was Yuliya Efimova (RUS), on 1:06.32 for the European crown, while the sub 1:07 club also included Sarah Katsoulis (AUS), Jessica hardy (USA), Ji Liping (CHN) and Satomi Suzuki (JPN). The second American berth for Shanghai 2011 was filled by Amanda Beard, who over 100m and 200m was Olympic silver medallist in 1996, bronze medallist over 200m at Sydney 2000 and Olympic champion over 200m at last in 2004. Beard also won the 2003 world title over 200m, and took silver in the 100m at the same event. Aged 14 at her Olympic debut in 1996, she earned gold as a member of the USA medley relay. Now a mother, she is back in action this summer.