It took Bishop O'Connell High's Kate Ziegler precisely 8 minutes 25.31 seconds to officially turn her first world championship meet into a fairy tale. Ziegler did everything she could have hoped for -- and far more than she expected -- during these 2005 swimming world championships at Jean-Drapeau Park.
She swam personal-best times in both races she entered.
And, oh yeah, she won them, too.
Saturday night, Ziegler, 17, collected her second gold medal of the meet with a dominant swim -- another one -- in the 800-meter final. She surpassed her previous best by nearly five seconds and topped Canada's Brittany Reimer by 2.28 seconds.
"I had kind of high hopes for myself, but to do as well as I have, I've surprised myself," said Ziegler, who will begin her senior year at O'Connell this fall. "It's unexplainable how excited I am."
Ziegler also dominated the 1,500 freestyle this week but that event, unlike the 800, is not in the Olympics for women. It was Saturday's medal that really meant something, particularly to Japan's Ai Shibata, the reigning Olympic champion. She finished third, 2.55 seconds behind Ziegler.
"It helped a lot to have done well in the 1,500," Ziegler said. "I had a lot of confidence."
Reimer, also 17, won the bronze here in the 1,500 free. After Saturday's race, Reimer predicted a longtime rivalry with her age contemporary in the distance events.
"She's just come up this year," Reimer said. "For me just having someone else there to race is just awesome. We could be going at this for another six years."
Ziegler's next challenge? Well, it's not the world records of Janet Evans in the 800 (8:16.22) and 1,500 (15:52.10). At least, not yet.
"As far as the world record goes, it still seems so far away from me," Ziegler said. "As far as the world championships . . . I'm just so happy how it's gone."
Chasing the Aussies
The U.S. women's 400 medley relay team that included Natalie Coughlin, Jessica Hardy, Rachel Komisarz and Amanda Weir set a championship record time of 3:59.92 in Saturday night's final but still finished behind the Australians, who did not match their world record but dominated the race in 3:57.47.
"The year after the Olympics is always an interesting year," Coughlin said. "The Australians are getting better and better. . . . Each team is pushing each other to get better. It's good for the sport of swimming and it's good for both teams." . . .
In a 50 free men's final that included no Americans, South Africa's Roland Schoeman set a championship record with his victory in 21.69. Schoeman, who earned the silver in the 100 free, topped Alexander Popov's world championship best (21.92) but couldn't catch up with Popov's five-year-old world record (21.64).