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SHANGHAI, China, July 26. WITH a handful of textile bests already falling by the wayside in just two days of competition, the 2011 FINA World Long Course Championships are shaping up to be one of the fastest meets of all time.
While it pales in comparison to the more than 40 world records set at the 2009 World Long Course Championships in Rome, we are back to comparing apples to apples in a post techsuit era.
The first two days of competition have also featured plenty of amazing storylines, including the resurgence of men's sprinting in Australia with the men's 400 free relay victory, the emotional story of Norway's Alexander Dale Oen winning one for his besieged nation, and the soap opera surrounding Cesar Cielo's admittance to Worlds following a positive doping test that left him with a warning, but has the majority of the swimming community up in arms with his inclusion in the meet.
What will day three hold for those in attendance and watching around the world?
Men's 50 breast
World record: Cameron van der Burgh, RSA, 26.67
Textile best: Cameron van der Burgh, RSA, 27.18
Last night, Norway's Alexander Dale Oen nearly cracked the textile best on his way out in the men's 100 breast victory that led to a winning time of 58.71. Dale Oen clocked a 27.20 50 split, just missing Cameron van der Burgh's textile best in the sprint breast of 27.18.
This morning, Dale Oen cruised into the semifinal round with a fifth-seeded 27.51. Meanwhile, Brazil's Felipe Silva hammered out the fastest time by far in the morning with a blistering time of 27.19, just missing the textile best by the slimmest of margins.
"The 50m heat is very tough today," Dale Oen said. "I tried to restart from last night's 100m breaststroke and focus on the next race. Tonight, I'll just try to do the same thing in the semifinal."
Slovenia proved to have a strong sprint breaststroke duo with Matjaz Markic (27.36) and Damir Dugonjic (27.47) finishing second and third. USA's Mark Gangloff qualified fourth in 27.49, while New Zealand's Glenn Snyders (27.52), van der Burgh (27.58) and Germany's Hendrik Feldwehr (27.67) rounded out the top eight. Snyders downed his New Zealand record of 27.67 from 2010 in the process.
"It's really tough because it's only 50m," van der Burgh said. "So, if you make one small mistake, you'll have to pay for it. I did just enough to make it through the final. If you get one thing wrong, you are really in trouble."
Romania's Dragos Agache (27.75), Italy's Fabio Scozzoli (27.84), Russia's Aleksandr Triznov (27.84), Czech's Petr Bartunek (27.86), Australia's Brenton Rickard (27.89), Serbia's Caba Siladji (27.93), The Netherlands' Lennart Stekelenburg (27.95) and Kazakhstan's Vlad Polyakov (28.00) also made the semifinal round.
Men's 200 fly
World record: Michael Phelps, USA, 1:51.51
Textile best: Michael Phelps, USA, 1:52.09
With Michael Phelps having a busy night ahead of him, including a 200 fly and 200 free double, it was obvious that he decided to save some fuel in his gas tank for tonight with an 11th-seeded time of 1:56.77.
"I'll make a difference in the final tomorrow," Phelps stated simply after the swim.
Austria's Dinko Jukic and Brazil's Leonardo De Deus took the top two seeds with a 1:55.26 and 1:55.55, respectively. Hungary's Bence Biczo (1:55.71), USA's Tyler Clary (1:55.95) and Japan's Takeshi Matsuda (1:55.98) all clocked in at the 1:55 range for the top five seeds.
"I'm satisfied with my form here," Matsuda said. "And, the result (in the heats) is pretty good. I will step up my tempo in the final."
China's Chen Yin (1:56.23), South Africa's Chad Le Clos (1:56.37) and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh (1:56.39) also made their way into the top eight.
Poland's Pawel Korzeniowski (1:56.51), Poland's Marcin Cieslak (1:56.56), Greece's Stefanos Dimitriadis (1:56.82), Greece's Ioannis Drymonakos (1:56.88), Brazil's Kaio Almeida (1:56.92), China's Wu Peng (1:56.98) and Great Britain's Michael Rock (1:57.03) also grabbed spots in the semifinal round.
"I was a little stressed in the race," Wu said. "I didn't swim fast because I want to reserve energy for the night session. The other swimmers in my heat didn't swim fast, either. I think [Phelps] is far from his peak form in 2008 and 2009. It won't bring to me additional pressure to swim next to him, because we have competed against each other many times before. I spent seven months in U.S. prior to the world championships. I've benefited a lot from the training spell in U.S., in both swimming techniques and English language."
Women's 200 free
World record: Federica Pellegrini, ITA, 1:52.98
Textile best: Federica Pellegrini, ITA, 1:55.45
While Italy's Federica Pellegrini is the heavy favorite in the event as the reigning and defending world champion and world record holder, USA's Allison Schmitt will be looking to turn 2009's silver into gold. Schmitt topped qualifying with a 1:56.66, while Pellegrini checked in with a second-seeded time of 1:56.87.
"I'm very satisfied this morning," Pellegrini said. "In Rome 2009, I was slow in the morning. I always want to be fast. In the 400m freestyle race, I won the gold medal. I'll try my best in the semifinal and final of the race. But it's always difficult to finish the 200m race."
Australia's Bronte Barratt (1:57.37), Hungary's Agnes Mutina (1:57.40), Australia's Kylie Palmer (1:57.42), The Netherlands' Femke Heemskerk (1:57.43), Germany's Silke Lippok (1:57.53) and New Zealand's Lauren Boyle (1:57.72) comprised the rest of the top eight qualifiers into the semifinal round. Boyle tracked down another New Zealand record, this time topping Melissa Ingram's 1:58.32 from 2009.
"The morning's heat is pretty comfortable," Palmer said. "I just want to keep my strength for the following swims. It's just the best feeling I've ever had. I really want to be one of the players in next year's Olympic Games."
France's Camille Muffat (1:57.99), Slovenia's Sara Isakovic (1:58.01), Spain's Melania Costa Schmid (1:58.04), Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom (1:58.26), Canada's Barbara Jardin (1:58.26), Hungary's Evelyn Verraszto (1:58.27) and China's Tang Yi (1:58.30) finished ninth through 15th. Costa Schmid bettered Spain's national record in the event of 1:58.11 set by Patricia Castro Ortega last year.
"This is my fastest result in all the morning sessions," Tang said. "Honestly, I'm nervous, so I have to speak it out loud to make me more comfortable."
Japan's Haruka Ueda and Hanae Ito set up an uncomfortable intranation swimoff with matching 1:58.74s for the 16th spot. Teammates will definitely have a hard time not cheering on their personal favorites in this one.
Ueda earned the final spot with a 1:58.19 to 1:58.55 victory in the swimoff.
Men's 800 free
World record: Zhang Lin, CHN, 7:32.12
Textile best: Grant Hackett, AUS, 7:38.65
The men's 800 free finale should have a special performance, as the preliminary swims proved to be stellar. China's Sun Yang clocked a 7:45.29 to lead the way, short of his lifetime best of 7:44.12 from April, but still good enough to rank 20th on the all-time list.
Pal Joensen of the Faroe Islands finished just behind with a 7:45.55, the 21st-fastest time ever to shoot Joensen to ninth all time on the performers list. Canada's Ryan Cochrane provided the other 7:45 with a third-place 7:45.57 that now stands 22nd all time. Cochrane already owns fifth on the all-time performer list with a 7:41.92 from the techsuit era.
Hungary's Gergo Kis (7:48.33), Tunisia's Ous Mellouli (7:48.86), USA's Peter Vanderkaay (7:49.13), France's Sebastien Rouault (7:49.43) and USA's Chad La Tourette (7:49.94) also made the finale.