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Originally published Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Auburn 20-year-old sets 2nd world records in 2 days

Ariana Kukors of Auburn set a second world record after being a fortunate late addition to the American team for the swimming world championships.

ROME — Ariana Kukors of Auburn set a second world record after being a fortunate late addition to the American team for the swimming world championships.

Kukors, 20, joined the U.S. roster when Elizabeth Pelton decided she wanted to concentrate on other events and gave up her spot in the 200-meter individual medley. Kukors, third at the U.S. trials earlier this month, inherited the start at the Foro Italico and responded with two world records in two days.

She comfortably beat Olympic champion Stephanie Rice of Australia for the gold medal Monday, winning in 2 minutes, 6.15 seconds. Kukors surpassed the mark of 2:07.03 she set in the semifinal round Sunday. Entering this meet, Rice held the world record of 2:08.53.

"It's been a whirlwind these last two days," Kukors said. "I never stopped believing I could fulfill my dream."

The victory was the first individual gold medal for the United States after Nathan Adrian of Bremerton, Michael Phelps and teammates won the 400 freestyle relay Sunday.

Rice settled for the 200 IM silver medal in 2:07.03 and Katinka Hosszu of Hungary was third in 2:07.46.

"Of course I'm upset about losing the record. But if I'm going to lose it to somebody, I'm happy it's her," Rice said of Kukors. "We're very good friends."

Kukors wore a Jaked 01 suit for her records, two of 11 marks set in the first two days in the pool. This is likely the last major meet for 100 percent polyurethane bodysuits.

Olympic silver medalist Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe stuck with last year's Speedo LZR suit and finished fourth, 2.79 seconds behind Kukors.

"The last couple weeks, I've had some goal times in the back of my head, and I knew I had a big drop coming," Kukors said. "I was very pleased to hear the words 'world champion' before my name [in the medal ceremony]. It was the first time for me, and something I'll always remember."

Kukors has promised to take Pelton out to dinner to thank her teammate for the opportunity.

"I don't care where it is, as long as it ends with gelato," said Pelton, who didn't qualify for the 100 backstroke final, finishing 13th in Monday's semifinal.


• American Aaron Peirsol failed to make the 100-meter backstroke final, a stunning semifinal result for the world-record holder, two-time Olympic champion and three-time defending world champion. "It's just a huge miscalculation," he said.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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