FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Natalie Coughlin became the first woman to break the one-minute barrier as she shattered the 100-meter backstroke world record Tuesday, finishing in 59.58 seconds at the U.S. National Swimming Championships.
Coughlin, of Concord, Calif., trimmed more than a half-second off the previous record of 1:00.16 set by Chihong He of China in 1994.
Coughlin is the first American to hold the world record since Catherine Ferguson in 1966.
"I was glad I finally did it," Coughlin said. "Breaking the world record has been in the back of my mind, and I knew I could do it."
Coughlin's was the ninth world record broken at the Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex, the first since 1991.
The only Alaska swimmer at the meet competed in the men's 100 back on Tuesday.
Derek Gibb, a 21-year-old Petersburg High School graduate whose family now lives in Juneau, rarely competes in the backstroke but finished 28th in the event, just missing a spot in the "C" Final (the top three groups of eight swimmers each advanced to finals).
Gibb, a junior at Auburn University who is competing for the Auburn Aquatics club team at this meet, finished the course in 58.45 seconds to earn a national qualifying time. Two alternates were moved into the finals due to scratches, and the slowest one's time was 58.42 seconds.
In the finals, Aaron Peirsol, 19, of California's Novaquatics Swim Team upset world record holder Lenny Krayzelburg of California's Trojan Swim Club.
Peirsol, of Irvine, Calif., won the 100 back in 54.01 seconds, with Krayzelburg second in 54.48. Krayzelburg, of Los Angeles, had the top preliminary-round time of 54.68, which is more than a full second slower than his 1999 world record time of 53.60.
"This certainly wasn't an easy field," Peirsol said. "I just tried to hold on. I don't think I kicked it up to another gear. The 100 is a longer race than I expected."
In other finals Tuesday, Nate Dusing, of Villa Hills, Ky., was the surprise winner in the men's 200-meter freestyle in 1:47.08, just 0.43 seconds off the American record.
Dusing sprinted into the lead on the first lap and never looked back, defeating favorites Michael Phelps, of Baltimore, and Klete Keller, of Phoenix.
Ed Moses, of Burke, Va., won the men's 100-meter breaststroke in 1:01.11. He was expected to challenge the world record of 59.94 seconds.
"It is always going to be my goal," Moses said. "I've been so close so many times."
Diana Munz, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, won her 19th national championship, taking the women's 400-meter freestyle over Lindsay Benko, of Elkhart, Ind., by about two seconds.
Kristy Kowal, of Atlanta, won the women's 100-meter breaststroke in 1:08.53. Maggie Bowen, of Jackson, Miss., took the 200-meter individual medley in 2:14.07.
The meet continues through Saturday. The top swimmers from this meet, depending on their eligibility, will represent the United States at the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships, the 2003 Pan American Games, the 2003 World University Games and the 2003 World Championships.
Gibb is expected to compete in the 50-meter freestyle, the 100 free, the 400 medley relay and possibly the 800 free relay later in the meet. Gibb didn't compete in last year's national championships, but in 2000 when the meet served as the Olympic Trials he finished 31st in the 50 free and tied for 71st place in the 100 free.