Kate Ziegler competes in the women's 1500-meter freestyle during the swimming world championships in Shanghai. (Lintao Zhang/GETTY IMAGES)

This trip to China certainly has surpassed the last one. Bishop O’Connell High graduate Kate Ziegler ended a four-year world championship and Olympic Games medal drought Tuesday, winning a silver in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle at the swimming world championships.

Ziegler finished in 15 minutes 55.60 seconds as Denmark’s Lotte Friis ran away with the title, winning in 15:49.59. Though Ziegler, a two-time champion in the event, expressed disappointment at missing out on the gold medal, she said she had been savoring every aspect of this meet.

She had, after all, failed to qualify for the 2009 world championships in Rome after contracting swine flu. And fatigue and over-training contributed to a subpar performance at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, where she finished 10th in the 800 freestyle and 14th in the 400.

“Honestly, I’m both happy and a little disappointed,” Ziegler said. “I think everyone wants to win the gold, but that was the first big mile back since 2007. I’m pleased with the result. . . . I had a rough time the last time I was in China. This time, I’m having a really good time.”

The 1,500 is not an Olympic event; Ziegler will also compete in Friday’s 800 free heats.

In other news, Rebecca Soni successfully defended her world title in the 100 breaststroke, easily defeating Aussie Leisel Jones (1:06.25) and China’s Ji Liping (1:06.52), but falling short of her attempt to become the first person to break a world record in a 50-meter pool in the post-speedsuit era.

Soni’s winning swim (1:05.05) missed her 2009 world mark by 0.21 of a second.

Earlier, 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin was overtaken in the final meters of the 100 backstroke, which she led after the first turn. China’s Zhao Jing and Russian Anastasia Zueva out-touched Coughlin at the wall. Jing got the gold in 59.05 seconds, with Zueva getting second in 59.06 and Coughlin the bronze in 59.15.

Coughlin, who took 18 months off after the 2008 Summer Games, did not compete at the 2009 world championships.

“I’m very, very happy with that swim,” Coughlin said. “The women’s 100 backstroke is definitely the deepest female race right now. It’s very, very fast.”