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A break in record game

Times Staff Writer

OMAHA -- All these world records simply feed the voracious appetite for more.

After four in just the first day and a half of the U.S. Olympic swim trials, it almost seemed disappointing there were none Monday night at the Qwest Center.

“I knew you all wanted to see a world record, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me,” said Brendan Hansen, sounding almost apologetic.

Hansen, who made his second Olympic team, certainly didn’t have to feel sorry about a sub-minute finish, winning the 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 59.93 seconds, despite a so-so start and bad turn. Mark Gangloff was second with 1:00.42.

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Hansen’s disappointment was palpable, and he fired off a frank answer when a Japanese reporter, a member of a large throng following him, asked what he had to say to his longtime rival Kosuke Kitajima.

Hansen: “I don’t have anything to say to him. Next question.”

The words “world record” had everyone on edge around here, especially the proud owners. For a brief moment, Aaron Peirsol thought his own in the 100 backstroke might be in jeopardy when he was in the mixed zone after his semifinal and heard the public address announcer say that Randall Bal was flirting with world-record pace in the second semifinal of the 100 back.

Enough to get the heart rate up again. But the Orange County-raised Peirsol doesn’t get unnerved by much and kept chatting with reporters. Bal then went 53.09, preserving Peirsol’s record of 52.98.

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“Geez, that’s good,” Peirsol said. “That’s close.”

Then there was the attitude of Natalie Coughlin. She lost her world record in the 100 backstroke in the morning preliminaries when Hayley McGregory took it away with a swim of 59.15.

One heat later, Coughlin grabbed it back, reclaiming her property by going 59.03. She later told reporters in the mixed zone that she didn’t want McGregory to have it very long.

After all, Coughlin had held the mark, uninterrupted since 2002 when she became the first woman to break the minute barrier in this event.

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Neither McGregory (59.48) nor Coughlin (59.74) came close to the world record in the semifinals Monday night.

“I wasn’t surprised by Hayley,” Coughlin said. “Hayley’s been coming on strong.”

Very little about Coughlin surprises her longtime coach, Teri McKeever. Nonetheless, McKeever was pleased by the morning response.

“I don’t think she expected that -- I think she did and she didn’t,” McKeever said of Coughlin. “Hayley’s been swimming great, and I think that’s the sign of a champion . . . when you’re challenged, what do you do? It’s something I’ve always been impressed with her.”

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Elsewhere, there was jockeying for tonight’s finals. Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, who turned 23 Monday, qualified first and second in the 200 freestyle. Three women from the Trojan Swim Club made the final of the 100 breaststroke, Rebecca Soni (fastest qualifier), Jessica Hardy (fifth) and Lindsay Payne, who prevailed after a swim-off.

Amanda Beard of Team Bruin had the seventh-fastest qualifying time, 1:08.73, and said her close call in making the final “kind of freaked me out” but said it was her fastest time at this distance in the last four years.

There were two other finals in addition to the 100 breaststroke. Katie Hoff won the 400 freestyle in 4:02.32 and Kate Ziegler (4:03.92) took second, and there were two new faces on the Olympic team in the 100 butterfly as Christine Magnuson prevailed in a tense tactical race, going 58.11 to Elaine Breeden’s 58. 21.

Did she surprise herself?

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“Not now, but if you had asked me two or three years ago if I was going to the Olympics,” said Magnuson, who just completed her senior year at the University of Tennessee. “I would have given you a very strange look.”

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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Benchmarks

Hayley McGregory set a world record in the 100-meter backstroke Monday only to watch it broken moments later by Natalie Coughlin. Four world records have been established in two days at the U.S. trials:

*--* SWIMMER EVENT TIME * Natalie Coughlin 100 back 59.03 * H. McGregory 100 back 59:15 * Michael Phelps 400 IM 4:05.25 * Katie Hoff 400 IM 4:31.12 *--*

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Duels in the pool

Highlights from Day 2 of the U.S. Olympic swim trials at Omaha:

* Finals: Intrigue will be the word of the day. Mr. Versatile, Ryan Lochte, suggested he might drop either the 200-meter freestyle or the 100 backstroke from his crowded finals schedule tonight, making either Michael Phelps or backstroker Aaron Peirsol one happy swimmer. Or perhaps it’s mere gamesmanship and Lochte will swim in both finals.

* More finals today: There are two other finals, the women’s 100 backstroke and women’s 100 breaststroke. Also, there are semifinals in the women’s 200 freestyle, men’s 200 butterfly and women’s 200 individual medley.

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* Old guard: One revelation came when the morning heat sheets for today were handed out. Natalie Coughlin was not entered in the 200 freestyle, and she was ranked third in the world at that distance last year, opting instead for the 200 individual medley. Her personal best in the 200 freestyle is 1 minute 56.43 seconds, but she broke Katie Hoff’s American record in the 200 IM this month.

* Quotable I: “I’m an old woman. I don’t get off the blocks very fast,” said 26-year-old Amanda Beard on her slow start in the semifinals of the 100-meter breaststroke Monday night.

* Quotable II: “I think the biggest question in everybody’s mind was: Would her short-course translate to long-course? And I think that question was answered, yes,” said USA Swimming’s head coach Mark Schubert, of Christine Magnuson, who won the 100 butterfly Monday night and will swim today in the 200 freestyle.

-- Lisa Dillman

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