RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, April 24. CESAR Cielo began the journey toward defending his world championship title in the 50 freestyle with two swims today at the Maria Lenk Trophy meet that put him close to the top of the world rankings.
Cielo started off with a 21.58 in prelims, which made him the second-fastest swimmer in the event so far in 2013, behind reigning Olympic champion Florent Manaudou's 21.55. Cielo attempted to eclipse Manaudou's time in finals, but fell short with a 21.57. The times are among the fastest in the world so far, but they are slower than the 21.38 Cielo put up last year at the same meet, though it should be noted that Cielo is coming off major knee surgery. Cielo won the world championship in the 50 free in 2011 with a 21.52.
Marcelo Chierighini, who placed second in the 50 free behind Russian Vlad Morozov at last month's NCAA championships, placed second with a 21.88 to earn an individual swim at the world championships and put him in a tie for sixth in the world rankings with South Africa's Roland Schoeman. It's Chierighini's first time under 22 seconds in the event, and a lifetime best by five tenths of a second.
Bruno Fratus, who broke onto the international scene at the 2011 world championships, placed third today with a 21.92 to just miss out on the opportunity to return to worlds in this event. His lifetime best is a 21.61, which he did in his fourth-place finish in the 2012 Olympic final. Fratus' time in finals today matches his now seventh-ranked time from the International Meeting in France in February.
After two days of struggling to get people onto the world championship roster, Brazil can boast that five swimmers in the men's 50 free eclipsed the automatic qualifying standard of 22.33 today. Alan Vitoria dropped five tenths of a second off his lifetime best to post a 22.21 in prelims before placing fifth in the final with a 22.38. Nicholas dos Santos placed fourth today with a 22.24.
Thiago Pereira, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in the 400 IM, put himself inside the top 10 of the world rankings as well with a winning time of 4:15.87 after qualifying seventh with an easy 4:30.34 in prelims. Pereira sits eighth in the world, and will be looking to earn a medal in Barcelona after scratching from the event in 2011. Not only was Pereira the only world championship qualifier in the event, he was the only one under 4:20, as Esteban Salgado was second with a 4:21.46 and Henrique Rodrigues was third in 4:22.00.
Two names were added to the women's side of Brazil's world team roster today, as Graciele Herman posted a 25.10 to win the women's 50 free ahead of Alessandra Marchioro's 25.17. Dutchwoman Inge Dekker settled for third in today's race with a 25.23. Herman knocks Australia's Bronte Herman out of the top 10, and now sits 10th in the world rankings. Dekker ranks ninth with a 25.08 from the Eindhoven Swim Cup earlier this month.
In the women's 400 IM, Joanna Maranhao won with a 4:44.96, just missing the FINA automatic world championship qualifying time of 4:44.53. Samantha Salinas was second with a 4:48.82 and Julia Gerotto was third with a 4:50.80.
Open water specialists Ana Cunha and Poliana Okimoto took the top two places in the women's 800 freestyle, with Cunha taking the gold with an 8:40.98, and Okimoto second in 8:46.75. Argentina's Virginia Bardach, the younger sister of 400 IM Olympic medalist Georgina Bardach, was third with an 8:48.12.
Corinthians and Minas battled for the win in the men's 800 free relay, and nearly took down the meet record of 7:20.02 in the process. Corinthians won the race with a 7:20.26, while Minas took second in 7:20.88. Well back in third was Pinheiros with a 7:29.69.
In the women's 800 free relay, Minas set a meet record of 8:09.54, placing well ahead of SESI, which swam an 8:22.83. Corinthians rounded out the top three with an 8:23.30.