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LONDON, England, August 3. CHINA’s Sun Yang, who already became his country’s first male Olympic gold medalist and multiple medalist, will be looking to mine more gold in the men’s 1500-meter freestyle after dominating prelims at the 2012 London Olympics.
Sun crushed the preliminary heats with a 14:43.25, besting Grant Hackett’s Olympic textile best of 14:43.40 used to win the 2004 Athens Olympics. Last summer, Sun broke Hackett’s legendary world record of 14:34.56 from 2001 with a sterling 14:34.14 at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai. Now, Sun is vying for his second gold medal after winning the 400 freestyle on the first night. He took eighth in this event in 2008.
Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli, who ended Hackett’s threepeat bid in 2008 with a stunning victory in 14:40.84 for gold, qualified second in 14:46.23, while defending bronze medalist Ryan Cochrane of Canada qualified third in 14:49.31. Mellouli became the first male African athlete to win an individual swimming gold medal with his triumph in 2008.
“I’m just happy to get the first race in this Olympics,” Mellouli said. “I had some problems with my shoulder bugging me for the last three years. It seems to be working pretty well this morning. I woke up mentally not 100%. I’m confident the race went well, I’m feeling pretty confident for tomorrow.”
Cochrane, meanwhile, is gunning to become only the second Canadian gold medalist in the event. George Hodgson won the event in 22:00.0 at the 1912 Stockholm Games.
“All of us are vying for that spot (gold),” Cochrane said. “It’s going to be an exciting final. I just want to put together a race that I’m proud of.”
Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri (14:50.11) and Great Britain’s Daniel Fogg (14:56.12) qualified out of heat two of four, while South Korea’s Tae Hwan Park posted a sixth-ranked 14:56.89. This will be Park’s first Olympic metric mile finale after posting a 15:05.55 in heats in 2008. He already has four career Olympic medals, and will be vying for a fifth.
USA’s Connor Jaeger, an absolute rookie in this event with this morning’s swim only his sixth time swimming the 1500-meter freestyle competitively, qualified seventh in 14:57.56. Poland’s Mateusz Sawrymowicz, the 2007 world champion in the event, took eighth in 14:57.59.
“I thought it was a good race, it was my second-fastest time ever,” Jaeger said. “I’d feel a little safer if I’d gone a little faster, it will be a close call. In my freshman year in Michigan, my third event was the 200m fly. After that first collegiate season, my coach and I thought it was a smart idea to train for the 1650 instead, the collegiate version of this event. So since then I’ve been playing catch-up in training. It’s an interesting feeling, you want to go faster but your body just won’t let you. It hasn’t been challenging at all, waiting. It’s easy to sit back and watch your teammates break Olympic records, world records, win gold medals, it hasn’t been difficult at all, it’s been great.”
A pair of sub-15:00 times did not make the final as USA’s Andrew Gemmell (14:59.05) and Ukraine’s Sergii Frolov (14:59.19) just missed.
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