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BARCELONA, Spain, July 31. IF this morning is any indication, China is looking like an odds-on favorite to reclaim the sprint backstroke title at the FINA World Championships.
Fu Yuanhui topped qualifying with a time of 27.55, just a bit off her world-leading effort of 27.22 from Chinese Nationals that stands second all time in the record books. Her time today actually is within the top 15 all time. Meanwhile, compatriot Zhao Jing qualified second in 27.81 and is looking to take back her 2009 title, the swim that still stands as the world record with a 27.06.
Japan’s Aya Terakawa, the 2011 runner-up to Anastasia Zueva, checked in third with a 28.05 and should give the Chinese a run for their money throughout the rest of the heats. Spain’s Mercedes Peris Minguet drew a partisan welcome with her fourth-seeded time of 28.07.
Brazil’s Etiene Medeiros (28.16), USA’s Rachel Bootsma (28.28), Great Britain’s Georgia Davies (28.35) and Great Britain’s Lauren Quigley (28.35) rounded out the top eight qualifiers heading into semis.
Poland’s Aleksandra Urbanczyk (28.37), Czech’s Simona Baumertova (28.38) and Hong Kong’s Stephanie Au (28.39) qualified ninth through 12th, while superstar Missy Franklin made it through to semis with a 13th-seeded 28.44. Franklin already has won a pair of gold medals this week with wins in the 100 back and the 400 free relay, and has a daunting schedule of eight events. The sprint backstroke is one of the weaker events on her schedule, and she might just be happy to medal.
Croatia’s Sanja Jovanovic (28.44), Australia’s Emily Seebohm (28.48) and Canada’s Sinead Russell (28.60) also made their way into the semifinal heats.