ROME, Italy, July 26. BehindTheBlocks.com's Priyant Pratap is providing on the spot thoughts at the FINA World Championships of each session. Here is his day one finals analysis.
With clouds descending on the Foro Italico, the packed stadium appreciated the shade after a searing prelims session, that gave ‘heats' a new meaning. Sarah Sjostrom bettered her heats swim with 56.44, a new world record, removing the oldest world record from the books formerly held by Inge de Bruijn in 56.61 in the women's 100 fly. Jessicah Schipper and Dana Vollmer weren't able to break the 57s barrier either, but managed to swim 57.08 and 57.19 respectively. Marleen Veldhuis and Zhou Yafei were forced to a swim-off (shortly after Marleen's relay performance) which saw Marleen as the victor. Other qualifiers for tomorrow night's final include Ingvild Snildal, Jiao Liuyang, Aurore Mongel and Gabriella Silva. Interestingly, Christine Magnuson has missed the final, and was a favorite to win a medal, or even gold, finishing in 10th position with 57.59. 15 women were under the 58s mark.
The next world record was broken by Paul Biedermann of Germany as he unexpectedly won the 400 free coming just short of 3:59, with a 3:40.07, to take the first world championship of the meet for Germany. Ous Mellouli of Tunisia finished with silver in 3:41.11 with Zhang Lin decidedly taking out bronze with 3:41.35, whilst Peter Vanderkaay was fourth in 3:43.20.
With a very strong heats swim by Ariana Kukors, who made the team when Elizabeth Pelton scratched the event from her program, she took out the world record held by Stephanie Rice, in the lane beside her to take it to 2:07.03, lowering the standard by 1.42s. Rice finished in second with 2:08.68, with 6 girls altogether under 2:10 – including Hannah Miley, Julie Hjorth-Hansen, Kirsty Coventry and Evelyn Verraszto. Katinka Hosszu and Camille Muffat were the remaining qualifiers with American Julia Smit surprisingly missing out in ninth place by 0.21 of a second.
Rafael Munoz finished in first in the heats of the 50 fly with a championship record of 22.68, while his co-championship record holder from the heats, Roland Schoeman finished ninth in 23.18 along with Andrew Lauterstein in 23.19. These two men along with Matt Targett (who finished 5th with 23.04) would back up later on, totaling 4 swims in one day due to the 400 free relay. Milorad Cavic was sub-23 in 22.75. The other qualifiers were Nicholas Santos, Duje Draganja, Albert Subirats, Jason Dunford and 2007 bronze medalist at Worlds, Jakob Andkjaer.
The event of the night came up shortly after, the women's 400 free, where the hopes of a stadium full of people fell on Federica Pellegrini. As the first woman to break the 4 minute barrier, she clocked 3:59.15 to the delight of a very enthusiastic crowd who were on their feet through most of the race, including the non-Italians and the media. Joanne Jackson took silver in 4:00.60, while Rebecca Adlington impressed many with her performance in a LZR, to maintain a bronze medal position, with both British women chuffed with their swims. American Allison Schmitt missed the medals, with 4:02.51. Later in the evening, dressed in black, with sunglasses and bodyguards, Pellegrini exited in front of a crowd of spectators in a Maserati in divaesque fashion.
In contrast to the fast swimming, the men's 100 breast saw a slower semifinal with Eric Shanteau setting a new American and championship record with 58.96 while his teammate Mark Gangloff finished 11th in 59.71. All men in the semifinal broke the minute barrier, with the slowest time being posted jointly by Christian Sprenger and Yuta Suenaga with 59.98. Joining Shanteau in the final will be Cameron van der Burgh, Hendrik Feldwehr, Brenton Rickard, Igor Borysik, Giedrius Titenis, Hugues Duboscq and Henrique Barbosa.
Finally after a smooth running of the program, the relays were under way.
The women's 400 free relay started with a preview to the women's 100 free final where Libby Trickett faced off against Britta Steffen. Trickett wore a high-tech suit (despite being vocal about her wanting to swim in a LZR) to not disappoint the team. 52.22 was the time clocked by Steffen, which was a lead off, new world record, and also now the fastest split in history (again, this is a lead off). Coupled with a 52.37 surprising split by Daniela Schrieber, Germany took silver ahead of the Australians and the Americans. The Dutch won in a close finish thanks to Ranomi Kromowidjojo, who swam 52.30 (the second fastest split in the event) while Marleen Veldhuis anchored in 52.87, off her best relay times swum in Beijing. The same quartet has now continued their winning streak through Euros, Worlds and the Olympics.
Australia made a controversial selection where Cate Campbell, who swam a 53.50 time trial, was left off the team, in favor of Felicity Galvez. Marieke Guehrer swam 53.60, slower than her heat swim, and Trickett led off in 52.62, a new Commonwealth record. With Magnuson the only returning member of the morning swim, the U.S. women weren't able to match their silver from Beijing with a 54.47 lead off by Amanda Weir, and Dara Torres swimming 1.5s slower than what she swam at the Olympics. Dana Vollmer anchored in 53.18.
The men's 400 free relay was quite unpredictable. Many felt like the ‘on paper' choice was France, but the Americans managed to get it together to win.
The U.S. dropped 100 free qualifier David Walters in favor of Ryan Lochte, who split 47.03. Michael Phelps led off 0.2s slower than his swim in Beijing, with 47.78 while Matt Grevers swam 47.61 before handing it over to NCAA champ Nathan Adrian in 46.79.
Despite scraping into the finals, Russia managed to cause an upset for silver with all four men swimming under 48s. Cesar Cielo, who looked upset an hour after the race, led off in a championship record time of 47.09, but the Brazilians finished in fourth position despite being the fastest qualifiers. The French team saw many men swimming under their best, with Fred Bousquet clocking 47.42, Fabien Gilot in 47.73 leading off, and handing it over to Alain Bernard (46.46) and Gregory Mallet (48.28). Ryan Lochte did great in his major debut in this event, in long course, while Australia finished in its lowest ranking in 10 years in this relay.
Finally, Meagen Nay will fly back to Austrlaia and scratch her remaining events – the 200 free, 800 free relay and the 200 back. Swimming World offers Meagen and her family sincere condolences on the passing of her brother.