Former USC NCAA champion Rebecca Soni solidified her place among swimming’s all-time greats today by becoming the first woman to win consecutive Olympic titles in either breaststroke distance, beating her day-old world record in the 200-meter breaststroke en route to her second gold medal in the race at the 2012 London Olympics.
Some 24 hours after lowering the world record to 2:20.00, Soni bested the time with a winning swim of 2:19.59. In second place after 50 meters, Soni moved into first before the halfway mark. She extended her lead to 0.72 over Japan’s Satomi Suzuki with 50 meters left and beat both Suzuki and the clock to the wall to reset her world-record mark. Suzuki won silver (2:20.72) while veteran Russian Iuliia Efimova took home bronze (2:20.92).
Soni now owns four of the top five fastest swims ever in the race. Suzuki and Efimova became the fifth and sixth women ever to go under 2:21.00.
Soni’s gold is her second medal of the games after winning silver in the 100-meter breast earlier in the week, and it is the fifth medal of her career. She is the first American woman ever to win a combined four breaststroke medals in consecutive Olympics.
The latest gold medal is USC’s second of the games and sixth overall medal. USC now has 268 Olympic medals, including 125 gold, 80 silver and 63 bronze.
Soni, who joined Lindsay Benko as USC’s only two-time Olympic gold medal-winning women’s swimmers, earned Troy’s 11th women’s swimming Olympic gold medal.
Former Trojan All-American Clement Lefert, already with a gold and silver on relays for France, raced in the 100-meter butterfly and finished 30th (53.22). USC junior Lynette Lim, competing for Singapore, swam in the 800-meter freestyle and finished 31st (8:52.92).
Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli, USC’s other gold medal swimmer from the 2008 Olympics competing in London, will swim in the prelims of the 1500 meters on Friday as he tries to defend his title in the distance. A top-eight finish will earn him a spot in Saturday’s final. In addition, a handful of USC swimmers could see action in the prelims of the 400-meter medley relay on Friday, including Soni and Lefert.