ADELAIDE, Australia, April 26. THE first day of competition at the Australian nationals/world championship trials featured two impressive swims by Christian Sprenger in the 100 breaststroke and a disqualification that left an Olympian out of the men's 400 freestyle final.
Swimming Australia has implemented qualifying times for the world championships that are faster than the FINA A qualifying standards. Specifically, the top two finishers must equal or beat the time swum by the eighth-place finisher at the 2011 world championships in non-Olympic events.
Three swimmers went under the qualifying time in the meet's first final, the men's 400 freestyle. David McKeon got to the wall first in a meet record time of 3:43.71, dropping nearly three seconds from his lifetime best and putting second in the world behind Sun Yang's 3:42.93. To put the swim in more perspective, the time would have placed McKeon third in the Olympic final last year. Jordan Harrison also made the world championship team with a second-place 3:45.85 for fourth in the world standings. The 17-year-old qualified for his first senior national team squad after breaking through last fall at the Australian short course championships.
Ryan Napoleon, who competed in this event in the Olympics with McKeon, placed third with a 3:46.26. In another year, it would have been good enough for a spot on Australia's international squad. Thomas Fraser-Holmes was expected to contend for the title as well, but was disqualified in the prelims for a false start reminiscent of Ian Thorpe at the 2004 Australian Olympic Trials, falling off the blocks during the starter's command.
Bronte Barratt continued the momentum in the women's 400 free final, posting a 4:03.52 that is also a lifetime best that puts her at the top of the world rankings, bumping Camille Muffat's 4:04.16 to second. Barratt, the Olympic bronze medalist in the 200 free, competed in this event at the 2012 Olympics, finishing 12th with a 4:07.99. Barratt's time today would have placed second in the 2011 world championships and fourth at the 2012 Olympics. Kylie Palmer will also swim the 400 free in Barcelona, posting a runner-up time of 4:06.00 that puts her sixth in the world. As was the case in the men's race, third-place finisher Katie Goldman also swam fast enough to qualify for the world championships but will stay home per FINA's two-swimmer-per-event rule after posting a 4:07.39.
Barratt's swim impressed Stephanie Rice, who has not officially retired but is not competing in Adelaide:
Wow @brontebarratt you little super star .. 4 secs faster than the Olympics in her 400fre final tonight and off to World Champs .. Go roomie
— Stephanie Rice (@ItsStephRice) April 26, 2013
In semifinal action, Alicia Coutts posted an impressive double in the 100 fly and 200 IM. She qualified first for tomorrow's 100 fly final with a 57.93, followed by newly-minted Australian Ellen Gandy (57.99) and Britta Elmslie (58.47). Coutts backed it just a few minutes later with the second-fastest qualifying time in the 200 IM with a 2:13.37. Emily Seebohm, who missed out on Olympic selection in the 200 IM last year, has a shot at making the world team with Stephanie Rice not competing and qualified first with a 2:11.66. Hayley Baker, 17 years old, qualified third with a 2:13.78.
Christian Sprenger nearly posted a lifetime best time in the 100 breast semifinals today, qualifying first with a 59.05. The time is just off the 58.93 he swam to win the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, and breaks his meet record of 59.91 from last year. Sprenger already sat at the top of the world rankings for 2013 with a 59.75 from January, and cements that standing. Only Sprenger and Italy's Fabio Scozzoli (59.77) have broken the 1:00 barrier this year. Brenton Rickard, looking to return to the world championships to back up his 2009 world title, qualified second today with a 1:00.87, while FINA World Cup men's champion Kenneth To was third in 1:01.58, a lifetime best.
In the 50 fly semifinals, Matt Targett put himself on pace to defend or improve his bronze medal swim from the 2011 worlds with a 23.22. He stands fourth in the world in the non-Olympic event. No matter what happens in tomorrow's final in the 50 fly, the top two finishers in the event will have to qualify for the world team in an Olympic event to get the chance to swim the sprint fly in Barcelona. Christopher Wright will also contend for the national title after qualifying second with a 23.84, and Ben Treffers was third with a 23.89.
Three Paralympians posted swift times in the women's 100 backstroke disability final. Taylor Corry swam a 1:10.37, well ahead of Ellie Cole's 1:14.17 and Maddison Elliot's 1:19.84. In the men's 100 backstroke, Paralympians Michael Anderson (1:02.46) and Daniel Cox (1:04.82) posted the top two times of the meet.