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LONDON, England, July 29. THE second day of preliminary qualifying at the 2012 London Olympics kicked off in a big way today with an Olympic record in the women's 100 back qualifying heats from Australia's Emily Seebohm.
Seebohm, who previously had a top time of 58.88 for the Australian record, blitzed the field in heat four of six with a sterling 58.23. Out under world record pace, Seebohm settled for the third fastest time ever. That swim eclipsed the Olympic record of 58.77 set by Kirsty Coventry at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and also bested Natalie Coughlin's Olympic textile best of 59.68 from the 2004 Athens Olympics. Additionally, Seebohm's time this morning cleared the overall textile best of 58.85 previously posted by Missy Franklin at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month. Only Gemma Spofforth (58.12) and Anastasia Zueva (58.18) have been faster than Seebohm, with both times coming during the techsuit era.
Seebohm has a chance to become the first Australian to win an event in which her country has had little success. Bonnie Mealing won silver way back in 1932, while Judy-Joy Davies took bronze in 1948. Australia's Belinda Hocking could also help better these numbers for the Aussies after qualifying third in 59.61.
Franklin, meanwhile, won the final heat in an easy speed 59.37. She will look to become the 10th American to win the event, and keep the title in U.S. hands for the third Olympiad in a row as Natalie Coughlin snared the gold medal the previous two iterations of the event.
“I think the emotional and mental aspect of it being at the Olympic Games is harder than other races,” Franklin said. “I really get a lot of support from the coaches.”
Japan's Aya Terakawa placed fourth in prelims with a 59.82 and could become just Japan's third Olympic medalist in the event. Mai Nakamura (silver, 2000) and Satoko Tanaka (bronze, 1960) are the other medalists for Japan. Zueva, the second-ranked swimmer ever in the event, cruised to fifth in 59.88 for Russia, while Great Britain's Georgia Davies (59.92), Canada's Julia Wilkinson (59.94) and China's Fu Yuanhui (59.96) made up the rest of the top eight.
“They were fast times to compete with,” Terakawa said. “There is not going to be too big a change in semis, but last year in Shanghai I made a mistake in the semis and was eighth and in the last lane. I want to be in the center.”
China's Zhao Jing (59.97), Czech's Simon Baumrtova (59.99) qualified ninth and 10th to complete the sub-minute times, while USA's Rachel Bootsma (1:00.03), world-record holder Spofforth (1:00.05), Canada's Sinead Russell (1:00.10) and France's Alexianne Castel (1:00.16) placed 11th through 14th. Two-time defending silver medalist Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe snuck in with a 15th-place time of 1:00.24, while Italy's Arianna Barbieri grabbed the final transfer spot with a 1:00.26.
Notable misses included 15-year-old Denmark prodigy Mie Nielsen with a 17th-place 1:00.38 and 2007 Swimming World World Swimmer of the Year Laure Manaudou of France taking 22nd in 1:01.03.
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