By John Lohn
Beijing, China, August 9. AN Australian led the qualifying in the women's 100 butterfly, but probably not the one you were expecting. Nope, it wasn't Libby Trickett at the head of the field during prelims. Rather, Jessicah Schipper paced the field as she captured first place in the sixth of seven heats. Schipper, the world-record holder in the 200 fly, was timed in 57.58.
Schipper used her trademark finish to best the field, as she tracked down China's Zhou Yafei in the closing meters. Zhou had the home-nation crowd making some noise by leading the majority of her qualifying swim. She eventually touched the wall in 57.70, sharing the No. 2 position with American Christine Magnuson. The Tennessee product led wire-to-wire in her prelim.
The fourth and fifth qualifiers for the semifinals were somewhat surprising as Singapore's Li Tao (57.77) and Brazil's Gabriella Silva (58.00) occupied those positions. Sixth went to American Elaine Breeden, who will also race the 200 fly at these Games. Breeden produced a time of 58.06 and was followed by Italy's Ilaria Bianchi (58.12), South African Lize-Mari Retief (58.20) and the Netherlands' Inge Dekker (58.22).Retief set an African record with her swim.
France's Aurore Mongel was 10th in 58.30 with Russia's Natalia Sutyagina (58.32) and Aussie Libby Trickett (58.37) following. It remains to be seen if Trickett was simply coasting into the semifinals or whether she might be off peak form. The likelihood is Trickett playing it smart in order to advance. The rest of the semifinal field will include Hungary's Dara Eszter (58.39), France's Alena Popchanka (58.40), Denmark's Jeanette Ottesen (58.44) and Great Britain's Jemma Lowe (58.49).
"It was good," Trickett told meet organizers. "I'm happy with that performance, probably my fastest heat ever. It probably doesn't look that good coming in second, but I am happy with that."