BEIJING -- Dara Torres, the 41-year-old mom swimming in her American-record fifth Olympics, will have the top starting position for the finals of the 50-meter freestyle after posting the fastest time in Saturday's semifinal heats.
Torres' time of 24.27 was the sixth-fastest this year, and 0.15 better than anyone else in the semis. World record-holder Lisbeth Trickett of Australia also advanced to the finals, as did American Kara Lynn Joyce.
"I looked and I saw that I was first," said Torres, who won bronze in the 50 in Sydney eight years ago. "That's a little more pressure, and I'm old enough to be able to handle it."
Torres already has a silver medal in Beijing, having anchored the U.S. women in the 400 free relay. But an individual medal would be nice, too, considering she'd retired after giving birth to her first child in 2006, thinking she was done competing.
At the start of this semifinal, Torres was playing mom -- concerned about helping Sweden's Therese Alshammar fix her torn swimsuit.
"I tried to help her with it, tried to do it up, and it ripped again," said Torres. "I was saying, `Her suit's ripped' and waving my arms around."
Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry defended her Olympic
title in the 200-meter backstroke, winning in a world-record time.
She led all the way Saturday morning, touching in 2 minutes,
5.24 seconds, lowering the mark of 2:06.09 set by Margaret Hoelzer
at the U.S. trials last month.
Hoelzer took the silver in 2:06.23. Reiko Nakamura of Japan
earned the bronze in 2:07.13.
American Elizabeth Beisel was fifth.
After Coventry won, Britain's Rebecca Adlington won an Olympic gold
medal in the 800-meter freestyle, breaking Janet Evans' 19-year-old
Adlington touched in 8 minutes, 14.10 seconds Saturday, breaking
the oldest record in swimming of 8:16.22, set by the American in
Tokyo on Aug. 20, 1989.
Alessia Filippi of Italy took the silver in 8:20.23. Lotte Friis
of Denmark earned the bronze in 8:23.03.
Adlington completed a sweep of the women's distance events in
Beijing, having upset American Katie Hoff to win the 400 freestyle.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.