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World Champs, Day 7 Prelims: Australia Qualifies First for Final of Women's 400 Medley Relay -- July 30, 2005

By John Lohn

MONTREAL, Canada, July 30. THE seventh morning of the World Championships was contrasting, as three 50-meter sprint preliminaries were followed by heats of the men’s 1,500 freestyle. Capping the session was qualifying in the women’s 400 medley relay. This is how the morning shaped up.

Women’s 50 Freestyle

She has the fastest time in the world this year and Australia’s Alice Mills also had the quickest mark of the morning preliminaries in the one-lap sprint. Mills moved through the water in 25.15, just ahead of the 25.19 registered by Sweden’s Therese Alshammar, a longtime force in the freestyle sprints. China’s Zhu Yingwen was the third-fastest qualifier for the semifinals, going 25.22.

The Netherlands’ Marleen Veldhuis (25.27) was slotted fourth and Australia’s Lisbeth Lenton and the United States’ Kara Lynn Joyce shared the fifth-fastest prelim mark, behind swims of 25.29. France’s Malia Metella, coming off a silver medal in the 100 free, was seventh in 25.42 and Brazil’s Flavia Cazziolato was eighth in 25.55.

American Amanda Weir also advanced to the semifinal round, thanks to a swim of 25.69, good for 13th. A notable name failed to move forward when Slovakia’s Martina Moravcova finished 19th in the morning session with a swim of 26.19.

Men’s 50 Backstroke

A master of the 50 strokes in back and butterfly, Germany’s Thomas Rupprath registered the top time of the morning in the sprint dorsal. The world-record holder in the event and the defending champion, Rupprath clocked in at 25.44, one of only two times under 25.50. Great Britain’s Liam Tancock qualified second in 25.46.

The world champion in 2001, the United States’ Randall Bal produced the third-fastest swim of the morning, a 25.54 that was ahead of the 25.59 from Greece’s Aristeidis Grigoriadis and the 25.64 from Australia’s Matt Welsh. Spain’s David Ortega was sixth in 25.71 and American Aaron Peirsol was seventh (25.77). Peirsol has already won the 100 and 200 back events here and set a world record on Friday with a time of 1:54.66 in the 200 distance.

Malaysia’s Alex Lim, a former Swimming World High School Male Swimmer of the Year from the Bolles School, had the eighth-fastest qualifying time, going 25.79. The silver medalist in the 200 back behind Peirsol, Austria’s Markus Rogan failed to advance to the semifinals. The Stanford product was tied for 21st in 26.55.

Women’s 50 Breaststroke

A specialist in the event, Jade Edmistone led a one-two Australian finish after the preliminaries of the 50 breaststroke. The top seed heading into the World Champs, Edmistone bolted to a clocking of 30.79, quicker than the 30.99 mark of Brooke Hanson, her countrywoman. Edmistone and Hanson were the only swimmers to dip under 31 seconds.

The United States’ Jessica Hardy and Tara Kirk had no trouble qualifying for the semifinals and should find themselves in medal contention when the final is held on Sunday night. The silver medalist and freshly minted world-record holder in the 100 breast, Hardy negotiated the 50 distance in 31.13, good for third place. Kirk, meanwhile, was timed in 31.71 and finished sixth.

New Zealand’s Zoe Baker, by way of Great Britain, checked in with the fourth-fastest time (31.30) and was followed by Britain’s Kate Haywood (31.66). Baker, who changed nationalities, holds the world record of 30.57, set three years ago to the day. Germany’s Janne Schaeffer was seventh in 32.00 and China’s Luo Xuejuan, the defending champ, was eighth in 32.08.

Men’s 1,500 Freestyle

Considering his world-record swim in the 800 freestyle earlier in the week, Australia’s Grant Hackett has the potential to break another global standard, albeit one he already owns. The distance ace cruised through the preliminaries of the 1,500 free and earned the second seed for the Sunday final in 15:00.18. A win would hand Hackett a fourth consecutive world title in the event, a feat never before accomplished in any stroke.

Hackett has already won the 400 and 800 freestyle titles and has added silver in the 200 free and bronze in the 800 free relay. His medal count from four World Championships sits at 16, a record. Hackett could challenge his world record in the 1,500 free of 14:34.56, achieved at the 2001 World Champs in Fukuoka, Japan.

The bronze medalist in the metric mile at the Athens Olympics, behind Hackett and American Larsen Jensen, Great Britain’s David Davies had the top qualifying mark, as he went 14:59.33. Russia’s Yuri Prilukov was third after the prelims with a time of 15:01.03 and was followed by Poland’s Mateusz Sawrymowicz (15:03.56). Jensen checked in for fifth in 15:07.58.

The field for the final was filled out by France’s Sebastien Rouault (15:08.00), Germany’s Christian Hein (15:12.12) and China’s Zhang Lin (15:12.62). Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda was ninth in 15:13.39 and just missed advancing to the championship heat.

Women’s 400 Medley relay

As the world-record holder and reigning Olympic champion, Australia entered the week as the favorite to win the medley relay. That likelihood has not changed, as the Aussies went through the prelims in a leading time of 4:03.62. The Australians, who hold the world record at 3:57.32, went with a morning lineup of Giaan Rooney, Brooke Hanson, Felicity Galvez and Jodie Henry.

The United States is likely the only squad to challenge Australia, and that scenario is a longshot. The American contingent of Jeri Moss, Tara Kirk, Mary DeScenza and Lacey Nymeyer finished second in 4:04.53 and was followed by Germany in 4:05.50. The U.S. will likely go with Natalie Coughlin (back), Jessica Hardy (breast), Rachel Komisarz (butterfly) and Amanda Weir (freestyle) in the championship heat.

Australia will also shuffle its lineup for the evening session, most likely to feature Rooney, Leisel Jones, Jessicah Schipper and Lisbeth Lenton. The other qualifiers for the final were Italy (4:05.63), Russia (4:06.37), China (4:06.69), Poland (4:06.71) and Japan (4:07.32). Just missing the championship race were the Netherlands (4:07.39) and Great Britain (4:07.71).