By John Lohn
BEIJING, China, August 10. AFTER two rounds of competition in the men's 100 breaststroke, the favorite is not defending champion Kosuke Kitajima. And, it's not world-record holder Brendan Hansen. Surprisingly, the top qualifier heading into the championship final is Norway's Alexander Dale Oen, the European titlist.
Having set the Olympic record in the prelims, Oen went faster in the semifinals, his mark of 59.16 just missing Hansen's global standard of 59.13. Oen made his presence known earlier this year at the European Champs and is now expanding his profile in a big way. He split 28.03 for the first lap and came home in 31.13, the fastest back end of the semifinals.
Kitajima, trying to make it back-to-back crowns, won his semifinal heat in 59.55, holding off the 59.65 effort by No. 3 seed Brenton Rickard of Australia. France's Hugues Duboscq was fourth in 59.83 and will try to add to the bronze medal he won in Athens. Hansen, meanwhile, was fifth in 59.83. That time was a big improvement over his prelim swim of 1:00.36.
"Everything is going as planned," Hansen said. "I'm not going to show what I can do until tomorrow. Everyone is swimming scared. They're all wondering why (is Hansen) swimming out in Lane 7. I had a dream and called my brother Sean to tell him that I won the gold medal from Lane 2. That's where I'll be in the final. I won my first world championship in that lane. I'm comfortable in that position."
Also reaching the final were Russian Roman Sludnov (1:00.10), American Mark Gangloff (1:00.44) and the Ukraine's Igor Borysik (1:00.55). Sludnov was the first man in history to break the minute barrier.