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Coughlin claims bronze in 100 free

/ Source: The Associated Press

Britta Steffen of Germany has won the 100-meter freestyle at the Beijing Olympics, holding off world record-holder Libby Trickett of Australia.

Trickett took the silver in 53.16. Natalie Coughlin of the United States earned the bronze in 53.39 for the second consecutive Olympics. She earned her fifth medal of these games, equaling her haul from four years ago in Athens. She races once more, in the 4x100 medley relay on Sunday.

Steffen touched in 53.12 seconds, bettering her own Olympic record of 53.38 set in the preliminary heats.

"My coach told me the other girls were going to be very fast. I just closed my eyes and tried not to be disturbed and it turned out well," Steffen said.

At the 2000 Sydney Games, when Steffen was 16, she earned a bronze medal as a member of Germany's 800 free relay squad, even though she did not swim the final. Her best result in Athens four years ago was a fourth-place finish as a member of the 400 free relay team, when she again did not compete in the gold-medal race.

After the Athens Games, Steffen took a year off and sought help from a psychologist, for reasons she hasn't elaborated on. She came back in August 2005 and won the 50 and 100 free at the German championships, then dominated the 2006 European Championships with four golds, one silver and three world records.

"I enjoy my life. I have a positive environment in Berlin and I train in one of the best pools we have," said Steffen, who still works with a sports psychologist.

Her mark of 53.30 seconds in the 100 stood for nearly two years until Libby Trickett improved it to 52.88 in March.

Despite the record, Trickett only barely qualified for the final when Pang Jiaying of China was disqualified, setting up the Australian to swim in lane 8 alongside Steffen.