In the 70's and 80's this stroke was dominated by the East Germans. When Mitchell beat world-record-holder Cornelia Sirch and a teammate over 200 meters in December 1985, it was the first time in seven years that an American woman had won a backstroke competition against an East German.
But Mitchell wasn't satisfied, and Quick, her coach at Texas, felt that she, ahem, displaced too much water. So in April, Mitchell started running for half an hour after her daily double workouts and gave up ice cream and Snickers bars. She lost 10 pounds, to 150, and found she more easily held a pace in workouts.
Proving that less is more, the newly tapered Mitchell started the week in Orlando by winning the 200 free. She then trimmed her U.S. record in the 100 back from 1:01.79 to 1:01.20. On Friday 27 June 1986, the final day of competition, she cut nearly two seconds off her U.S. record in the 200, finishing the morning prelim in 2:09.96, only .05 off the world record.
The question before the final that night was whether she had left it in the pool. Neither Mitchell nor the sparse but fired-up crowd thought so.
She churned through each of the first three legs faster than she had in the prelim. "I heard an incredible roar at 150 meters," Mitchell said. She made her final turn at 1:35.43, more than a second faster than her morning pace, nearly one-half second ahead of Sirch's world-record pace. Arms whirling, Mitchell furiously brought it home. She hit the wall in 2:08.60, lopping 1.31 seconds off the world mark.