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SHANGHAI, China, July 24. IN the feel good story of the day, Norway's Alexander Dale Oen led all swimmers in the men's 100 breast semifinals at the FINA World Long Course Championships.
Similar to the cathartic feeling found when Japan won the women's World Cup in soccer to serve as a rallying point for the tsunami/earthquake-ravaged country of Japan, Dale Oen is shouldering a heavy burden as a point of positivity after the domestic terrorism attacks in Norway this weekend.
Dale Oen turned in a scintillating time of 59.37 in semis for the top seed in the finale, while Japan's Kosuke Kitajima (59.77) and Italy's Fabio Scozzoli (59.83) both broke 1:00 for second and third.
"The time is okay, not that fast," Dale Oen said. "There are still some details to be improved. I want to keep my body positive. As to the Japanese swimmer, it is really a pleasure to swim with him. He is a great guy. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself and be yourself and try to make yourself back home."
Kitajima, known as the top breaststroker ever due to his triumphs in the past two Olympic Games, has had a difficult time in the world championships in the 100 breast. After winning the title in 2003, he finished second to Brendan Hansen in both 2005 and 2007 before taking a post-Beijing hiatus in 2009.
Notably, Scozzoli clipped his Italian record in the event with his third-seeded effort. He previously owned the record with a 59.85 from Belgrade in 2009.
"I feel good," Scozzoli said. "I think I can do a little better. China is a different country. Shanghai is more like Europe. Tomorrow I think I can do better for the medal."
Australia's Brenton Rickard (1:00.04), South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh (1:00.07), USA's Mark Gangloff (1:00.19), Hungary's Daniel Gyurta (1:00.23) and Lithuania's Giedrius Titenis (1:00.26) picked up the rest of the transfer spots into the finale.
Rickard and van der Burgh finished 1-3 in the 2009 World Championships in this event, while France's Hugues Duboscq, the defending silver medalist, missed the final this year with a 12th-place 1:00.56.