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LONDON, England, July 30. WHILE most eyes were on Team USA's Michael Phelps and Tyler Clary dueling for most of the final heat, Austria's Dinko Jukic powered right on by to claim the top time of the men's 200-meter butterfly heading into semis at the 2012 London Olympics.
Jukic snared the top time of the morning with a 1:54.79. Jukic has yet to advance out of semifinals in his Olympic career. In 2008, he made semis of both the 200 fly and 200 IM, and put in a prelim swim in the 400 IM. His top international finish is a sixth-place 1:55.08 in this event at the 2009 World Championships. He wound up seventh in the 200 fly at the 2011 World Championships with a 1:55.48, and is looking to improve upon those efforts.
“It's a bit like the situation in Shanghai repeating itself, so I hope to save energy for the semis and finals,” Jukic said. “I felt really good in the water, I had a good position. In the last 50 meters I felt really strong and confident and I could control the race.”
Jukic comes with some baggage this year as he received a warning from the Austrian Anti-Doping Agency for refusing to submit to a drug test in May 2011. He cited hygiene concerns over the blood test as the reason for his refusal to submit to the test, and claimed negligence in protocol on the part of the inspectors. In February 2012 he announced his intention to privately sue the Austrian NADA for 'gross negligence'. “If need be, I'll go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. I want answers, I will ask for a detailed explanation.”
Clary picked up the second spot in qualifying with a 1:54.96. He made some news during Olympic training camp when word broke that he'd questioned teammate Phelps' work ethic after making his first Olympic team. He has a bit more pedigree than Jukic, having finished second in the 400 IM at both the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, and took third in the 200 back in 2011 as well. His top 200 fly finish is a fifth-place 1:54.45 from the 2009 World Championships.
“It felt fantastic. The time was faster than it was at trials. I hurt a heck of a lot more than I did at trials,” Clary said. “I said to myself coming into the third wall how well I felt so I'll see if I can bring it home. I am very, very excited. I hope I can go faster tonight. It felt like there was more there.
“[Phelps] said it almost perfectly. People are going to say what they want. Let's leave it there,” Clary said when asked about his negative comments directed at Phelps during training camp.
Serbia's Velimir Stjepanovic turned in a swift time early on out of heat three with a 1:54.99 securing his first international semifinal outing. He clocked a 1:57.40 in heats of the 200 fly at the 2011 World Championships. South Africa's Chad le Clos, who made some serious money on the 2011 World Cup circuit, qualified fourth in 1:55.23.
Phelps, meanwhile, checked in with a fifth-place time of 1:55.53. After failing to pull off the threepeat in the men's 400-meter IM earlier in the meet, Phelps watched Kosuke Kitajima also miss a threepeat in the men's 100-meter breaststroke last night. The two-time defending champion in the 200-meter fly, Phelps now has a chance to become the first man to ever win an event in three successive Olympics. Dawn Fraser and Kristztina Egerszegi have pulled off the feat on the women's side. He will also be looking to match the overall record for Olympic medals at 18, currently held by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
China's Chen Yin (1:55.60), Japan's Kazuya Kaneda (1:55.70) and Japan's Takeshi Matsuda (1:55.81) comprised the rest of the top eight. Matsuda is the defending bronze medalist in the event. Defending silver medalist Laszlo Cseh of Hungary turned in a ninth-place 1:55.86.
China's Wu Peng (1:55.88), Poland's Pawel Korzeniowski (1:56.09), Australia's Nick D'Arcy (1:56.25), Hungary's Bence Biczo (1:56.51), Australia's Chris Wright (1:56.69), Russia's Nikolay Skvortsov (1:56.76) and Greece's Ioannis Drymonakos (1:56.97) also made semis.
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