MORE ON REB
In the Pool
2008 was a breakout year for Rebecca. She won the Gold Medal and set a World Record in the 200m breaststroke at the Beijing Olympic Games by defeating the Australian favorite, Leisel Jones. Rebecca also took home 2 Silver Medals in the 100m breaststroke and the 4x100m medley relay.
In the spring, she ended her collegiate career at USC by sweeping both breaststroke events at NCAA Championships. Her win in the 200y was done in American Record time and she broke the NCAA record in the 100y. Her career at USC was flawless – she was a 6-time NCAA Champion, winning in the 200y breaststroke all 4 years.
At the 2009 National Championships in July, Rebecca won the 100m and 200m breaststrokes, setting an American Record in the 100m. She continued with a strong performance at World Championships in Rome, winning the 100m breaststroke in World Record time and earning a Silver Medal in the 50m breaststroke. For her performances in 2009, she was named the American Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine. Rebecca signed an endorsement contract with Arena and was the leading female athlete in their campaign to reenter the U.S. market.
Rebecca was the 2010 National and Pan Pacific Champion in the 100m and 200m breaststrokes, making it a year that she had gone unbeaten in the 100m. At the 2010 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, she won a total of 3 Gold Medals. In the 100m breaststroke, she recorded the third fastest time in history with a 1:04.93 to win the Gold Medal ahead of Australians Leisel Jones and Sarah Katsoulis. Her time was also the fastest ever recorded in a textile swimsuit. Rebecca then competed in the 200m breaststroke and the 4×100m medley relay. In the 200m breaststroke, she dominated the field with a time of 2:20.69. Leisel Jones came in second in 2:23.23.
At the end of 2010, Rebecca competed at the 2010 FINA Short Course World Championships in Dubai, where she won 3 Gold Medals and 1 Silver Medal. Rebecca swept all the breaststroke events and individually set 4 championship records. At year’s end, Rebecca was named the World Swimmer of the Year and American Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine.
At the 2011 World Championship Rebecca won her first gold medal in the 100m breaststroke. In her second event, the 200m breaststroke, Rebecca won with a time of 2:21.47, her first gold medal in the event at a long course World Championships. In the 4×100-meter medley relay, Rebecca won gold with Natalie Coughlin, Dana Vollmer, and Missy Franklin with a time of 3:52.36, over three seconds ahead of second-place finisher China. In her last event, the 50m breaststroke, Rebecca finished in third place behind Jessica Hardy and Yuliya Yefimova. At year’s end, Rebecca was again named the World Swimmer of the Year and American Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine, and defended her titles from 2010.
2012 Summer Olympic Games
Rebecca successfully qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, her hard work since 2008 had paid off! In London Rebecca won her first medal, a silver, in the 100m breaststroke. Two days later, after breaking Annamay Pierse’s world record in the semifinals with a time of 2:20.00, Rebecca won a gold medal in the final of the 200m breaststroke with a time of 2:19.59, breaking her own world record and becoming the first woman ever to break 2 minutes 20 seconds in the event. With her win, Rebecca became the first female to successfully defend her title in the event. In her final event, the 4x100m medley relay, she won gold with Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer and Allison Schmitt. Swimming the breaststroke leg, she recorded a time of 1:04.82, and the U.S. team went on to set a new world record with a time of 3:52.05.
Known to her family and friends as “Reb” and born in Freehold Borough, New Jersey, Rebecca is the daughter of Peter and Kinga Soni. Rebecca’s parents are of Hungarian descent. Rebecca also speaks Hungarian and has has one older sister, Rita. When Rebecca was growing up she preferred gymnastics and only joined her older sister Rita’s swimming club because it was a better option than the alternative of having to wait for Rita to finish her class. So at age 10, Rebecca started swimming, with no idea that she would eventually win an Olympic Gold medal.
Rebecca graduated in 2009 from the University of Southern California with a major in Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication. She is now back in school working on a graduate degree in topics of science and nutrition.
In 2010, she joined the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign in its “for Girls, by Girls” movement to improve the lives of the world’s adolescent girls. Through her outreach activities, Rebecca hopes to mobilize American girls to raise awareness and funds for United Nations programs that protect, educate and empower the world’s hardest-to-reach girls.
Rebecca resides in Manhattan Beach, California and continues to train with her college coach, Dave Salo.