By Craig Lord
MOSCOW, April 3. FINA'S thirst for world records on the first day of the World Short Course Championships in Moscow's Olympiisky pool, was quenched by China's new Golden Flowers tonight as Xu Yanwei (1:55.73), Zhu Yingven (1:57.04), Tang Jigzhi (1:58.37)and Yu Yang (1:55.16) clocked 7:46.30 to shave 0.84 sec off the time established by Great Britain last August.
Consider Yu's effort: just 15 minutes before she had won the silver medal in the 200m butterfly in 2:06.10 behind Australian long course world champion Petria Thomas, whose 2:05.76 was a championship record,
with American Mary Descenza third on 2:06.17.
The United States was second in the relay just outside Britain's best, in an American record 7:47.55 – and watch out for the 200 free later in the week after an American record 1:54.97 leadoff split from first-off-the-blocks Lindsay Benko – with Australia third in 7:49.50.
For the US, Gabrielle Rose clocked 1:56.89, Colleen Lanne 1:58.90 and Rachel Komisarz 1:56.79.
Benko's lead-off split was faster than any other split in the event, including all those with relay starts!
China's record was announced with a certain sense of relief after a day of racing that was entertaining but fell shy of the standard that we have come to expect of world short course events at the end of a winter in which the World Cup circuit witnessed 24 new global standards.
Perhaps it was nervousness about any possible bout of race fatigue that caused organisers to put off an opening show complete with scantily clad sparkler-wavers, jugglers in PVC pants and a giant frog on a trapeze, not to mention the farcical and frenetic playing of the "Can Can" to an ever-increasing beat as Ukrainian Yana Klochkova raced to retain her 400m
medley title in 4mins 30.63sec.
A championship too far? Klete Keller of the United States, may well think not. For him Moscow is already a great championship, after victory in the 200m freestyle in 1:44.36 preceded his role as a member of the US 4 x 100m freestyle quartet that defeated Australia and Sweden to take the crown in 3:10.64, a second shy of the world record but not bad for what
the US might consider as its development squad. Keller, a distance man, anchored in 47.99, following a 46.57-second third leg by jason Lezak that gave the US the lead. Lezak's split was second fastest of the event, only two-hundredths behind Sweden's Stefan Nystrand.
Second was Sweden, 3:11.14 – with Nystrand splitting 46.55 split -with Russia third in 3:11.24 off a 46.98 split from Alexander Popov.
The absence in the 200m of Ian Thorpe, who is back in Australia, Pieter van den Hoogenband and Grant Hackett, who is in Moscow but has contracted a virus that confined him to the spectator seats, left a gaping hole in a 200m freestyle final. It was hardly a world title race – though Keller has every right to feel the champion of the day, so emphatically did he
dominate the race.
In victory, he became only the second American after Chad Carvin, 2000 champion over 400m and fourth today in Moscow over 200m, to win a world short course freestyle title, his time a personal best of 1:44.36
setting him a class apart from those who followed him home.
The field was level until the 100m mark, at which point Keller began to make his move. By 150m he was a half body-length ahead and had no cause to look back from there. Runner-up was veteran Brazilian Gustavo Borges, on 1:45.67, with Mark Johnston of Canada third in 1:45.88, a swim that may herald a recovery in Canadian fortunes. Carvin was fourth on 1:46.14.
Back in seventh place was Olympic medal winner Massimiliano Rosolino, the Italian who is far away from the form he found to astound in Sydney 2000.
In the semi-finals, Emma Igelstrom, of Sweden, came within 0.04sec of her own world record of 30.24sec set in Gothenburg two months ago over 50m breaststroke, to qualify fastest, nearly 0.5sec ahead of defending champion Sarah Poewe, of South Africa, with Britain's Zoe Baker, third.
Matt Welsh, of Australia, heads the qualifiers for the 100m backstroke final ahead of US teammates Peter Marshall and Aaron Piersol. Welsh clocked 51.73sec, just inside the 51.98 set by Piersol in the heats. He could manage only 52.36 tonight, with Marshall 0.1sec ahead.
The 100m breaststroke for men threw up new talent, 22-year-old Jarno Pihlava, of Finland, fastest through in 59.09, ahead of Oleg Lisogor, of Ukraine, 59.12, and America's David Denniston a further 0.03sec adrift.
Just 0.62sec separate all eight finalists.
Another new name in world level finals is Igor Martchenko, of Russia, who surprised defending champion Lars Frolander, of Swedem, when he qualified fastest in 51.59sec, with Canada's Michael Mintenko second in 51.61 and Frolander third on 51.73.