By Stephen J. Thomas
BARCELONA, July 22. WORLD record-holder and reigning world champion, the phenomenal American 18-year-old Michael Phelps, made fast work of his first swim at this meet clocking 1:55.70 in the 200 meter butterfly to qualify more than a second faster than his nearest rival, Japan's Takashi Yamamoto, bronze medalist at Pan Pacs.
Fellow American Tom Malchow, who beat Phelps at Pan Pacs last year, was not too far from the action qualifying third in 1:57.25.
Phelps split 56.25 at the second turn then turned up the after-burners in the last 50 meters. Rookie Greek teenager Ionnis Drymonakos set a national record 1:57.83 to place fourth going into the second round.
Also making it to the semis were China's Wu Peng (1:57.96) and Poland's Pawel Korzeniowski (NR 1:58.06) -- both teenagers -- and Britain's Stephen Parry (1:58.11).
Aussie Olympic bronze medalist Justin Norris looked very solid clocking 1:58.09 while 17-year-old rookie teammate Travis Nederpelt also made it through in a PR 1:58.25.
In a major upset, the veteran 33-year-old Frenchman Franck Esposito, who holds the second and third fastest swims all-time over the distance (1:54.62 and 1:54.70), managed only a 2:01.35 (27th fastest) in his heat. After his race, he said his goggles displaced at the start and by mid-race he just felt like a rock in the water.
It was noted that he went out in his first 50 in 25.97, fastest for the morning, so perhaps the mishap distracted him from the job at hand. Esposito was the most likely man to stop the USA going 1-2 in this race.
It took 1:59.00 or faster to move into the next round.
Women's 200m freestyle
The USA's Lindsay Benko was fastest qualifier for the semis this evening when she splashed a very fast 1:58.84, the only swimmer to dip under the 2-minute mark.
All her likely rivals also moved through to the next round. Silver medalist from Fukuoka, China's Yang Yu (2:00.32), Swede Josefin Lillhage (2:00.33), Aussie Elka Graham (2:00.36), Brit Mel Marshall (2:00.41), France's Solenne Figues (2:00.46), Alena Popchanka from Belarus 2:00.46 and Slovakia's Martina Moravcova (2:00.55) made up the top eight times. American 17-year-old Rhiannon Jeffrey also made the cut in 2:00.72.
Men's 50m breaststroke
Brit James Gibson, the bronze medalist in the two-lap race last night, continued to show his blistering speed with a very fast 27.54, just 0.02 seconds outside the championship record and 0.03 outside his PR. Others under 28 seconds were Hungarian Mihaly Flaskay (27.84), a student at USC; world record-holder Ukranian Oleg Lisogor (27.85); 33 year-old German physician, Mark Warnecke (27.96); and Slovakian Emil Tahirovic in a national record (27.96).
Finn Jarno Pihlava also clocked a PR 28.04 as did Aussie newcomer Brenton Rickard in a new Australian record 28.13. The USA's Ed Moses qualified 11th in 28.25, well outside his AR 27.39, but teammate Dave Denniston missed the cut in 22nd place (28.74). Hungary's Karoly Guttler, the oldest competitor here at the age of 35, swam 28.34 to move into the semifinal round.
Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, who set a world record in the 100 meter breast last night, scratched the 50 this morning.
Results: 2003 FINA World Championships