By John Lohn
BEIJING, China, August 15. FOR good reason, much of this week's action in the Water Cube has revolved around Michael Phelps and his pursuit of eight gold medals. But, there's some other history being chased, courtesy of Grant Hackett. The Australian distance ace is trying to become the first male swimmer to win an individual Olympic event three consecutive times.
Leading the last of the preliminary heats from start to finish, Hackett registered an Olympic-record time of 14:38.92 to better the 14:43.40 he used to win the gold medal in Athens four years ago. Hackett will now have a day to recuperate before attempting to add another Olympic victory to his lengthy list of accomplishments.
Canadian Ryan Cochrane, a fast-improving force on the international distance scene, established a national record while winning his heat. Cochrane clocked in at 14:40.84 to hold the Olympic record until Hackett came along. He was nearly matched in his heat by Russian Yury Prilukov, who touched the wall in 14:41.13, good for a European record.
China's Zhang Lin, the silver medalist in the 400 freestyle, grabbed the fourth seed for the championship final after being timed in 14:45.84, an Asian record. Also qualifying for the title race were Great Britain's David Davies (14:46.11), Tunisia's Ous Mellouli (14:47.76), China's Sun Yang (14:48.39) and American Larsen Jensen (14:49.53). The other American in the field, Peter Vanderkaay, was 11th in 14:52.11 and missed the final.
Twelve men broke the 15-minute barrier.