DUBAI // One of the fiercest rivalries in women's swimming is that between Rebecca Soni, of the United States, and Liesel Jones, Australia's darling of the pool.
That personal duel was carried through to Dubai last night as the younger Soni yet again reigned supreme over a former queen of her sport.
Jones, acknowledged as one of the finest exponents of the breaststroke technique in modern times, was stunned by the emergence of Soni at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing when the Australian's confident attempt to do the 100m and 200m double was wrecked by her American opponent in the longer event.
Since then Soni has held a definite edge and she confirmed that in front of the crowd at the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex by completing a golden double at the 10th Fina World Championships short course meeting.
Soni, who had already bagged gold in the 50m sprint, comfortably held off Jones over the extra distance and is now looking forward to extending her dominance over the eight-time Olympic medallist and 12-time World Championship medallist up to the London Olympics in 2012.
Jones, 25, disappointed to see her crown slipping, is a big admirer of Soni, two years the younger.
"If I know Rebecca's going to be at a meeting then I want to race against her, even though she keeps beating me," she said.
"We have become good friends outside the pool but there is an intense but healthy rivalry inside the pool."
Soni, 23, voted American Swimmer of the Year for 2009 and 2010, was happy to join a mutual admiration society as she clutched her latest treasure, secured by an impressive time of 1min 03.98secs for four lengths of the Dubai pool.
"There are always small margins between us and I think we respect each other tremendously," said the world record holder.
While Soni catches the eye as one of the brightest female visitors to Dubai for this five-day showpiece, her compatriot Ryan Lochte has wrapped up the title of the most influential men's swimmer here.
Lochte, who has three golds in the bank already, remains on course for six after leading the qualifiers for tonight's 100m individual medley in a time of 50.81secs which is only a fraction outside Peter Mankoc's world record.
Having already set world records in the 200m and 400m medley events, the prospect of a treble is looking good when he occupies pole position in tonight's final.
Two other men's individual events were settled last night, with Russia's Stanislav Donets and Albert Subirats of Venezuela emerging triumphant.
Donets added the 50m backstroke gold to the one he had taken at 100m and reflected after his 22.93secs of action: "I'm thrilled to finish off an outstanding year with wins at two distances here.
"For me this winter season is absolutely the best. I have won all my races at 50m and 100m in the European Championships, World Cup in Moscow and the Russian Cup. I hope this form is not just temporary and I can achieve even more."
Subirats needed even less time (22.40secs) to add the 50m butterfly gold to the silver he had collected over 100m and swept in ahead of Ukraine's Andrii Govorov and Germany's Steffen Diebler in a blanket finish.