Ashley Delaney Leads Pack in 100 Back Prelims

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BARCELONA, Spain, July 29. WHILE Jeremy Stravius and Camille Lacourt are looking to defend the title they shared in 2011, the likes of Ashley Delaney and David Plummer are ready to spoil the French party in the men’s 100-meter backstroke at the FINA World Championships.

Australia’s Ashley Delaney led the field this morning with a 53.60, bettering his ninth-ranked season best of 53.63 from Australian Nationals and putting himself firmly in the conversation as a gold-medal contender. Delaney is looking to become the second man from Australia to win the event after Matt Welsh’s 54.31 secured the Aussie the 2001 triumph.

USA’s David Plummer touched close behind this morning with a 53.62 for the second seed heading into semis. Plummer definitely has more in the tank heading through the rest of the heats as he is tied for second in with world with a 53.10 from U.S. Nationals as the man from Minnetonka is looking for some serious hardware this year.

China’s Xu Jiayu raced to third in qualifying with a 53.63, while Japan’s Ryosuke Irie also clocked a 53.6 with a fourth-ranked 53.66 as the top four qualifiers separated themselves from the rest of the pack a bit. Irie is looking for a bit of redemption after taking third-place honors in 2011 behind Stravius and Lacourt’s magical tie.

Stravius cruised through qualifying with a 53.85 a day after becoming a French hero with his epic anchor leg to overhaul the field in the men’s 400-meter freestyle relay. Stravius could be suffering a bit of a hangover after that emotional victory.

USA’s Matt Grevers (53.92), Japan’s Kosuke Hagino (53.94) and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh (54.06) comprised the rest of the top eight swimmers heading into semis.

Meanwhile, The Netherlands’ Bastiaan Lijesen (54.07), Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki (54.20), Lacourt (54.20), Great Britain’s Christopher Walker-Hebborn (54.23), China’s Cheng Feiyi (54.30), New Zealand’s Gareth Kean (54.37), South Africa’s Darren Murray (54.64) and Canada’s Charles Francis (54.72) snared the other transfer spots into semis. Murray is a bit of a surprise having made the top 16 from heat 1, while Spanish hero Aschwin Wildeboer Faber upset the crowd with a 17th-place 54.75 to miss semis.

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