BY Stephen J. Thomas
BARCELONA, July 24. A record swim crowd of over 11,000 people packed the Palau Sant Jordi pool tonight for what was a sensational night of competition. Two world records and three championship records fell on Day Five.
American Michael Phelps and Japanese Kosuke Kitajima each broke his second world record of the meet. Aaron Peirsol swam a championship record and the second fastest 200m backstroke in history. Alex Popov won his third championship gold in the 100m freestyle and Nina Zhivanevskaya gave Spain its first women's championship gold medal.
Men's 200 breaststroke
Japan's breaststroke pocket rocket, Kosuke Kitajima, did what he had been building up to in the prelims: take gold and regain his world record!
The 21-year-old Japanese was again under world record pace at all three turns tonight, just as he had been in the semis (50: -0.65, 100: -1.00, 150: -0.90). The key difference was that last night he went harder in the third 50 (-1.56 under WR), tonight he saved the gas for the telling last lap, coming home in 33.67 to hit the wall in 2:09.42 just 0.10 seconds under Komornikov's old mark.
Kitajima's brilliant form was on full display throughout this event as he lowered the championship record in each of his three swims.
The contenders fell away tonight, sunk by Kitjima's withering pace, but it was Brit Ian Edmond who took the silver in 2:10.92 getting past American Brendan Hansen (2:11.11) in the final straight. Aussie Jim Piper was fourth in 2:11.55 with Russian Dmitri Komornikov handing over his world record in fifth place (2:12.30).
Men's 100 freestyle
Last night we had a preview of this scintillating final when the 2000 Olympic champion, Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband and the 1992/96 Olympic champion, Russian Alexander Popov, battled it out in a semi-final. Popov is the current world record-holder over one-lap while Hoogie owns the world record for this distance.
Last night Popov flew down the first 50, turning in a blistering 22.91, a massive 0.25 seconds under his rival's world record split, but the 31-year-old lost form down the stretch as his great rival beat him to the wall in a hot 48.39.
Tonight the script was similar but there was a twist to the ending. This is why you travel for thirty hours to watch a swimming race!
Popov was out fast again, flipped first, a little slower than last night (23.05) with Hoogie on his tail in 23.12 (WR split 23.16). American hope Jason Lezak turned next (23.37), the Thorpedo was back in last place (23.67). This time Popov did not look falter and stroked to the wall in 48.42 to take gold "" a record third championship over the distance to go with Rome '94 and Perth '98.
Hoogie took the silver in 48.68, to matching his result in Fukuoka behind Anthony Ervin. Thorpe repeated his role of last night by finishing over the top of Lezak to take bronze in 48.77, one place better than Fukuoka. Lezak finished fourth in 48.94. Of the four swimmers, only Popov dropped his time each time he raced - 48.94, 48.51, 48.42.
Popov said at his press conference, "I don't think about medals or championships, it's about enjoying what I do, always trying to improve, to be as close to perfect as possible."?
Asked whether beating van den Hoogenband was revenge for his loss in Sydney, Popov said, "It is not about revenge. You know, to be a great champion you have to know how to win and more importantly know how to lose. Pieter understands this also, it's not just for swimming but for life."?
Popov also paid great credit to his coach Gennadi Touretski for his longevity in the sport. "Gennadi is always able to come up with something new to motivate me and keep me interested."? He told SwimInfo earlier in the week that it has been much easier to train since their move to Switzerland, leaving behind the dramas involving Touretski in Australia these past couple of years. "Now that Gennadi is settled and working again it is much better for me too,"? he said.
Women's 200 butterfly
Polish world record-holder, 19-year-old Otylia Jedrzejczak, swam a controlled race to take gold in 2:07.56, holding off 18-year-old Hungarian Eva Risztov (PR 2:07.68) in the same result as the 2002 Euro Champs. Pan Pac finalist, Japan's Yuko Nakanishi, took the bronze in 2:08.08 just 0.30 seconds in advance of American Mary Descenza who splashed to another PR 2:08.38 (the third fastest American performer behind Misty Hyman and Mary T Meagher).
Women's 50 backstroke
Local favorite Nina Zhivanevskaya brought the house down when she won the first world championship gold medal by a Spanish woman.
Zhivanevskaya, who had previously swum for Russia (silver medal in '94 in Rome in the 100 backstroke) clocked a new championship record 28.48, breaking the record held by American Natalie Coughlin by just 0.01 seconds.
Ilona Hlavackova from the Czech Republic lowered her PR for the third time to take silver in 28.50. Japan's Noriko Inada took the bronze (28.62), just 0.03 in advance of Canada's Jennifer Carroll who set a national and Commonwealth record 28.65.
Current world record-holder German Sandra Volker was fifth in 28.69 with American Haley Cope, the 2001 title-holder finishing in eighth place (28.99).
Zhivanevskaya said of her victory, "I deserve this medal, but all the people that have come here tonight deserve it more. At the start I was very calm and a bit worried about winning but in the end it all went to plan."?
Women's 800 freestyle relay
Team USA took its second women's relay in a new championship record time of 7:55.70. The team of Lindsey Benko, Rachel Komisarz, Rhiannon Jeffrey and Diana Munz were never headed after Benko blasted a 1:57.41 leading leg (the world's fastest time this year and a time that makes her history's fifth all-time performer) to keep the Aussie team at bay.
Australia looked to have the silver medal in their keeping until China's Yang Yu swam a blistering final leg of 1:57.24 to get within 0.11 seconds at the wall. Australia 7:58.42, China 7:58.53.
Towards the end of the medal presentation, Aussie Elka Graham collapsed and was carried from the dais for medical attention. It appears that her condition is not serious but a further report will follow as she has had medical problems relating to low blood pressure that were at one stage going to keep her out of the meet.
Men's 200 IM
The boy from Baltimore wiped once and for all any ill-conceived comments suggesting that one Michael Phelps had yet to prove himself on the world stage. Phelps carved 0.42 off his own world record set last month in Santa Clara when he clocked 1:57.52.
Phelps, under world pace for the first two legs, dropped to +0.29 after the breaststroke leg, but he came home in 27.20 to clinch the record.
His splits: 25.74, 55.38 (29.64), 1:30.32 (34.94), 1:57.52WR (27.20).
Phelps said after his record-breaking swim, "I went out to get a world record and that's what I did, even though I didn't feel good and hadn't slept well. I'm going to rest up now and try to beat the time again tomorrow."?
Olympic gold medalist, Italian Massi Rosolino, was next, over two-seconds behind in 1:59.84, and Trinidad's George Bovell dipped under the two-minute mark for another PR 1:59.86 (seventh all-time performer). American Kevin Clements also qualified in 2:01.01.
Men's 200 backstroke
The world record-holder, American Aaron Peirsol, swam the second fastest race in history to break his championship record from Fukuoka in 1:55.82, just 0.67 outside his world mark set last year in Minneapolis.
The twenty-year-old was over two seconds in advance of brilliant young Russian Arkady Vyatchanin who set another national record in 1:57.88. Croatian Gordan Kozulj clocked a very fast 1:57.94 for third and newcomer Bryce Hunt became the fourth fastest American performer when he swam 1:58.04. Only Peirsol, Krayzelberg and Phelps among Americans have swum quicker. Aussie Matt Welsh was slightly slower than his heat time to qualify in 1:58.34.
Women's 200 breaststroke
American Amanda Beard was the fastest qualifier for the medal round with a quick 2:25.54 (0.19 outside her PR), ahead of Chinese world record-holder Qi Hui (2:26.30) and European champion, Austria's Mirna Jukic (2:26.46). German Anne Poleska (2:26.53) and Aussie Leisel Jones (2:26.59) will also be fighting for the marbles.
The title-holder, Hungary's Agnes Kovacs, missed the cut by 0.04, beaten to the last spot by teenage team-mate Diana Remenyi. American Kristy Kowal also failed to qualify.
Women's 100 freestyle
Finn Hanna-Maria Seppala continues to impress, clocking 54.48 to be fastest for tomorrow. American Jenny Thompson will be there (54.78), so too Aussie teenage duo Jodie Henry (54.78) and Libby Lenton (54.92), Holland's Marleen Veldhuis (55.04), Slovakia's Martina Moravcova (55.00), Elena Popchenko (55.13) and German Antje Buschschulte (55.20).
Results: 2003 FINA World Championships