Swimming: Coster misses out on backstroke final

By Daniel Gilhooly

BEIJING - Leaving with another national record and swimming in a world record race meant little for New Zealand backstroker Elizabeth Coster, who was well short in her bid to qualify for the Olympic final.

Coster was bitterly disappointed to be the slowest of the 16 swimmers in the 100m semifinals, trailing her race in one minute 1.45 seconds.

It was significantly slower than her national record performance in the heats last night, where she clocked 1min 00.66sec to qualify 15th.

"Obviously I'm not very happy with that at all," Coster said.

"Last night it was really easy, it was such a relaxed swim and I felt quite awesome.

"Today I just didn't have it at the end ... I think I forced my stroke and it fell to pieces a bit."

Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe blitzed Coster's semifinal in a world record time of 58.77sec, smashing the old mark of 59sec established last month by American Natalie Coughlin.

It was something Coster wasn't aware of as she battled with her technique four lanes over.

"I was in lane eight, you're not really aware. Peripherally you can't quite see that way. You can maybe see two lanes over but not that far."

Breaking the 2-1/2-year-old national mark of fellow-Aucklander Hannah McLean at these Games was little consolation to Coster, who fully expected to go faster in Beijing given her buildup this year.

She now holds four records, over 50m and 100m in both backstroke and butterfly.

Her Olympics over, she will do some "cheerleading" of her teammates in the stands this week and enjoy Beijing.

A New Zealand representative for five years - including swimming butterfly at the Athens Olympics - Coster's next target is the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

By then the 25-year-old hopes to have cracked two time marks that have bugged her for several years, going under the one-minute mark in the 100m butterfly and 100m backstroke.

"I'm going to hang in there and try and do that."

Another New Zealand highlight last night was the men's 4x100m freestyle relay team eclipsing their old national mark by more than 2sec in a time of 3min 15.41sec.

Mark Herring, Cameron Gibson, Willy Benson and Orinoco Fa'amausili-Banse still failed to advance to what shapes as a lightning-fast final tonight.

New Zealand's best swimming prospect at these Games takes to the water tonight when Moss Burmester contests his specialist 200m butterfly heats.

Also in action is Helen Norfolk in the 200m individual medley.

- NZPA

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