Campbell Sisters Set Up For Aussie Gold Medal Chase in Women’s 400 Free Relay

ADELAIDE, Australia, May 1. THE Campbell sisters went 1-2 in the women's 100 freestyle final today at the Australian nationals, setting the country up for a repeat golden performance in the 400 free relay.

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.

Cate Campbell backed up her impressive 52.83 in the 100 free semifinals yesterday with a 52.92. Both times are the only swims under 53 seconds in the world so far in 2013, and just as impressively, both swims would have won Olympic gold last year. Campbell had to scratch from the 100 freestyle in London last year after coming down with gastroenteritis, but recovered enough to compete in the 50 free. Cate had been tied for first in 2013 in the 100 free before the start of Australian nationals with a 53.51 from January, sharing the position with Camille Muffat. Cate's younger sister Bronte placed second with a 53.85, also swimming slower in finals after posting a 53.72 in semis. Bronte is now fourth in the world.

“I'm on the team to Spain and I have my sister in the seat next to me,” Cate said after the race. “That is absolutely the best scenario. I was just hoping to possibly have her on the relay team with me, but to have her as an individual swimmer with me is just beyond my wildest dreams.

The women's 400 free relay has the potential to back up the gold medal won in the Olympics with a strong squad set for Barcelona. In third place in today's final was Olympic relay member Alicia Coutts with a 54.09 (eighth in the world), while Emma McKeon placed fourth with a 54.17. Britta Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger, who swam on the Olympic relay with Cate Campbell and Coutts, placed fifith and sixth, respectively, with times of 54.20 and 54.29. The top five finishers all cleared Australia's qualification standard for swimming the individual event in Barcelona, though clearing the standard does not seem to be a requirement for relay placement.

The top four's times would be a 3:34.94 in the 400 free relay (not counting for relay takeoffs), which would not have medaled at last year's Olympics, but could be within striking distance of gold this summer.

Mitch Larkin was on pace to win the men's 200 backstroke, leading the field by almost a second at the 150-meter mark. But he faltered greatly down the stretch, allowing Matson Lawson to take the win with a 1:56.59 to Larkin's 1:56.79. Both swims qualify for the world championships and put them fourth and fifth in the world standings. Also getting under the cut but missing out on world championship qualification in third place was Ashley Delaney, who fought to chase down the struggling Larkin but settled for a time of 1:57.58.

Sally Foster put in an impressive 200 breast final swim that immediately set her up as the long-awaited heir apparent to Leisel Jones in this event. Her time of 2:23.94 sits third in the world and is a lifetime best for the 28-year-old by seven tenths of a second. Foster might be Australia's lone representative in the event at the world championships, as Jenna Strauch's 2:26.47 time for second place was not faster than Australia's standard of 2:25.56, but is faster than FINA's A qualification time. Third place went to Taylor McKeown with a 2:28.24.

With former world record holder Christian Sprenger and Olympic medalist Brenton Rickard both sitting out the men's 200 breast, no one qualified for the world championships in the final, as Buster Sykes won with a 2:13.25. Sykes used a strong second half to overtake Jeremy Meyer, who placed second with a 2:13.78. Nicholas Schafer took third with a 2:14.45.

Belinda Hocking will be looking for a return trip to the world championships, and a return trip to the medal podium in the 200 backstroke, posting a 2:08.58 in today's semifinals in Adelaide. Her swim today is just .03 slower than her fifth-place world ranking time that she swam in March, though she is likely saving herself for a run at Missy Franklin's world-leading time of 2:07.31 from January. Hocking was second to Franklin at the 2011 worlds, which became Franklin's official debutante ball, while Hocking struggled at the Olympics, placing 10th in the 200 back. Qualifying in second and third in today's semis were 2012 Olympic finalist Meagan Nay (2:10.06) and Emily Seebohm (2:10.83). Seebohm returns to the longer backstroke event after a three-year sabbatical, last swimming the event at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Matt Targett and Matt Abood both got under 22 seconds in the men's 50 free semis with times of 21.92 and 21.98, respectively, putting them in the top 10 in the world, but a world away from Florent Manaudou's world-leading 21.55. Andrew Abood (22.04) and James Magnussen (22.06) are also in the final.

Chris Wright is putting the disappointment of not making the world championship team in the 200 fly behind him, qualifying first for tomorrow's 100 fly final with a 51.77. The time is faster than Australia's qualifying standard, which he'll have to do tomorrow to officially get on the team in the event. Tommy D'Orsogna, not known for his butterfly prowess, qualified second with a 52.52, while Kenneth To was third with a 52.74.

Alicia Coutts posted the fastest time in the women's 50 fly semifinals with a 26.17, breaking Alice Tait's meet record of 26.59. Marieke D'Cruz, formerly known as 50 fly world champion Marieke Guehrer, was second with a 26.44 and Brianna Throssell was third with a 26.62.

Taylor Corry and Daniel Fox collected more first-place finishes in disability racing today, with both winning the 100 freestyles. Corry took the win with a 1:01.62, while Fox won the men's race with a 54.39.

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