Complete List of Women's Swimming World Records

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In many ways, the 2012 Olympic Games marked a new beginning for women's swimming. Several world records that once seemed difficult to break were taken down, giving swimmers new hope for future events.

Here's a quick look at the world records in women's Olympic swimming events as they stood at the end of the 2012 Olympic swimming competition:

50-Meter Freestyle

World record holder: Britta Steffen, Germany

Set: Aug. 2, 2009

Time: 23.72

How it happened: Steffen defeated Therese Alshammar of Sweden at the 2009 World Championships to break the previous world record of 23.96, held by Marleen Veldhuis of Amsterdam.

100-Meter Freestyle

World record holder: Britta Steffen, Germany

Set: July 31, 2009

Time: 52.07

How it happened: Steffen broke her own world record, which she had set earlier in the meet, at the 2009 World Championships.

200-Meter Freestyle

World record holder: Federica Pellegrini, Italy

Set: July 29, 2009

Time: 1:52.96

How it happened: Pellegrini broke the world record, which she previously held herself, at the 2009 World Championships.

400-Meter Freestyle

World record holder: Federica Pellegini, Italy

Set: July 26, 2009

Time: 3:59.15

How it happened: Pellegrini reset her own world record, previously 4:00.41, at the 2009 World Championships.

800-Meter Freestyle

World record holder: Rebecca Adlington, Great Britain

Set: Aug. 16, 2008

Time: 8:14.10

How it happened: Adlington broke the world record, previously set by Janet Evans more than 19 years earlier, en route to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games.

100-Meter Butterfly

World record holder: Dana Vollmer, United States

Set: July 29, 2012

Time: 55.98

How it happened: Vollmer broke the world record, previously held by Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom, en route to a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.

200-Meter Butterfly

World record holder: Liu Zige, China

Set: Oct. 21, 2009

Time: 2:01.81

How it happened: Liu broke the world record, previously held by Australia's Jessicah Schipper, at the Chinese National Games.

100-Meter Backstroke

World record holder: Gemma Spofforth, Great Britain

Set: July 28, 2009

Time: 58.12

How it happened: Spofforth broke the world record, set earlier in the meet by Russia's Anastasia Zueva, at the 2009 World Championships.

200-Meter Backstroke

World record holder: Missy Franklin, United States

Set: Aug. 3, 2012

Time: 2:04.06

How it happened: Franklin broke the previous world record, held by Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry, en route to the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.

100-Meter Breaststroke

World record holder: Jessica Hardy, United States

Set: Aug. 7, 2009

Time: 1:04.05

How it happened: Hardy broke the previous world record, held by Russia's Yuliya Efimova at the 2009 U.S. National Championships.

200-Meter Breaststroke

World record holder: Rebecca Soni, United States

Set: Aug. 2, 2012

Time: 2:19.59

How it happened: Soni broke her own world record during the final heat of the 2012 Olympic Games.

200-Meter Individual Medley

World record holder: Ariana Kukors, United States

Set: July 27, 2009

Time: 2:06.15

How it happened: Kukors reset her own world record during the final of the 2009 World Championships.

400-Meter Individual Medley

World record holder

: Ye Shiwen, China

Set: July 28, 2012

Time: 4:28.43

How it happened: Ye broke the world record, which previously belonged to Australia's Stephanie Rice, at the 2012 Olympic Games.

4x100-Meter Freestyle Relay

World record holder: The Netherlands (Inge Dekker, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Femke Heemskerk, Marleen Veldhuis)

Set: July 26, 2009

Time: 3:31.74

How it happened: The team from the Netherlands broke the world record at the 2009 World Championships.

4x200-Meter Freestyle Relay

World record holder: China (Yang Yu, Zhu Qianwei, Liu Jing, Pang Jiayang)

Set: July 30, 2009

Time: 7:42.08

How it happened: The Chinese team broke the world record at the 2009 World Championships.

4x100-Meter Medley Relay

World record holder: United States (Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, Allison Schmitt)

Set: Aug. 4, 2012

Time: 3:52.05

How it happened: The American team broke the world record, previously held by the Chinese team, at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Sandra Johnson was a competitive swimmer for more than 15 years before she began coaching. She is a longtime Olympic fan, and while working for the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo., she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46.

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