We’re 10 weeks away from the summer Olympics in London and it’s about time you got to know some of the athletes poised to bring home the gold. Over the next three months, our Better Know an Athlete series will be profiling some of America’s best. This week: Rebecca Soni, winner of the gold medal for 200m breaststroke in Beijing, world record record holder and pride of the American pool.
Name: Rebecca Soni
Born in: New Jersey
Preferred Event: 200 m breaststroke
Soni has cleaned up in recent years at the FINA World Championships; she followed up a four-medal performance in 2010 (gold in the 50 m, 200 m, 200 m breast and silver 4x100 m medley) with another in 2011 (gold in 100 m breast, 200 m breast and the 4x100 m medley and bronze in the 50 m breast). She set the world record for the 100 m breast at the 2009 edition of the event.
She is a four-time national champion in the 200 m breast (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010), an event she not only won at the 2008 Olympic Games but for which she set and still holds the world record. She also took home two silvers in Beijing in the 100 m breast and the 400 m med-relay.
50 m breast: 29.83 set in Dubai, December 2010
100 m breast: 1:02.70 set in England, December 2009 (world record)
200 m breast: 2:14.57 set in England, December 2009 (world record)
Worth Noting: Soni was not even meant to compete in the 100 m breast at the 2008 Games in Beijing; she finished fourth at qualifiers; typically only the top two advance. But when the second and third place finishers dropped out, Soni was selected by default. She went on to win silver in the event behind heavy favorite and record holder Leisel Jones of Australia. She would go on to beat the heavily favored Jones three days later in the 200 m version of the event.
Soni after winning her gold medal at the 2008 Games: "It's been a long road to get here, I can't believe what just happened."
Olympic Scouting Report: Soni’s best times might be behind her, but she is still a force on the international stage. In 2011 she successfully defended her titles at the FINA World Championships and finished ahead of her second-place competitors by seconds in several high-profile races. She is a good bet to take gold in London in both the 100 m and 200 m breaststroke, and the American medley team, anchored by Soni, is most definitely in the race for a spot on the podium.