Olympic gold medallist Kirsty Coventry led the way as three world records tumbled on the opening day of the world short-course swimming championships on Wednesday.
Coventry broke the women's 400 metres individual medley short-course mark which had stood for six years and the U.S. men and Dutch women brought the evening at the MEN Arena to a tumultuous conclusion, shattering a pair of relay records.
Zimbabwe's Coventry, Olympic 200 backstroke champion, clocked four minutes 26.52 seconds to beat the 4:27.83 set by
Yana Klochkova of Ukraine in Paris on Jan. 19, 2002.
Coventry, coming out for the final barely 20 minutes after setting a championship record 57.99 in the 100 backstroke semi-finals, led from start to finish, chased home by Britain's Hannah Miley.
Miley, the fastest final qualifier, hit the wall in 4:27.27, also inside the old world mark.
The U.S. quartet of Ryan Lochte, Bryan Lundquist, Nathan Adrian and Doug Van Wie swum home in the men's 100 freestyle relay in 3:08.44 to beat the 3:09.57 mark set by Sweden at the world short-course championships in Athens on March 16, 2000.
The Dutch hit the wall in 3:09.18 for the silver, also inside the old world record, but their women's 4x200 freestyle relay ensured the team would end the night on a golden note as no less than four quartets finished inside the old world mark.
Inge Dekker, Femke Heemskerk, Marleen Veldhuis and Ranomi Kromowidjojo clocked 7:38.90 to annihilate the 7:46.30 mark set by Russia at the world short-course championships in Moscow on April 3, 2002.
Britain came within an ace of beating the Dutch, Rebecca Adlington bringing the hosts home in 7:38.96, just 0.06 seconds
adrift. Australia, anchored by Kylie Palmer in the fastest split of the evening, took bronze in 7:39.01 and the fourth-placed
U.S. were also inside the old world mark in 7:45.58.
Coventry was full of praise for Miley. "It was a great race. Hannah was an amazing contender. I wouldn't have done it without her. It's difficult to race the 400 IM by yourself. I'm really happy," she said.
"It's not easy doing the double (100 backstroke/400 IM). It's making me mentally stronger and confident going into Beijing."
Kenrick Monk and Kirk Palmer celebrated an Australian one-two in the opening final of the championships, leading all
the way without a serious challenge in the men's 200 freestyle.
Monk touched first by 0.04 seconds in 1:43.46 to Palmer's 1:43.50, both more than two seconds outside fellow Australian
Ian Thorpe's world mark.
Mary Descenza brought the U.S. their first gold medal of the five-day championships, piling on a powerful finish to win the
women's 200 butterfly in 2:04.27 and break the oldest American record, the 2:05.65 posted by Mary T. Meagher in Gainesville, Florida, on Jan. 2, 1981.
"I'm so excited, that's my first American record," Descenza, holding back the tears, told journalists. She was silver medallist in the event in 2004.