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Kukors stands atop world with record-breaking wave
She wasn’t even supposed to be on the team.
That didn’t faze Auburn’s Ariana Kukors, however, as she swam her way to a world record and a gold medal in the 200-meter individual medley at the 2009 FINA World Swimming Championships this past weekend in Rome.
Kukors slid into a spot on the U.S. Swimming Team roster earlier this month at the U.S. swimming trials when teammate Elizabeth Pelton decided to give up her spot in the 200-meter individual medley to concentrate on other events.
Kukors made the most of the chance, starting off by breaking the American record with a 2 minute, 8.53 second finish in the qualifying heat on Sunday.
As a follow-up, Kukors shattered Australian Olympic champion Stephanie Rice’s record in the semifinals on Sunday evening, clocking a 2 minute, 7.03 second time. The previous record set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was 2:08.45.
On Monday, Kukors turned around and broke the record she had set 24 hours ago, posting a 2:06.15 time in the finals and capturing the gold medal.
Rice finished in second place with a 2:07.03, and Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu was third with a 2:07.46.
"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 told the Associated Press. "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."
The win caps an already storied career for the 20-year-old, who swims with the King Aquatics team out of Federal Way.
Kukors has been with King Aquatics for more than 12 years and swam for the University of Washington as a freshman in 2007-08.
As a Husky, Kukors set six new school records in the pool and helped four relay teams to new U.W. records. She was also named Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year in 2008, in recognition of winning two Pac-10 individual titles. Kukors was second in the 200 IM, third in the 400 IM and fourth in the 200 breast at the 2008 NCAA swimming championships.
Kukors did not swim for the team in 2008-09, and the Husky’s women’s swimming program has since been disbanded.
Kukors, who graduated from Auburn Mountainview, swam for the Auburn High School team in 2003, where she finished first in the 200 IM and second in the 100 free at the Washington State 4A Championships. Kukors did not turn out for her prep swim teams the rest of her high school career, instead choosing to focus on club swimming.
"It's been a whirlwind these last two days," Kukors said. "I never stopped believing I could fulfill my dream."