By John Lohn
BEIJING, China, August 10. LEISEL Jones didn't waste much time sending a message to her competition in the 100 breaststroke. The world-record holder and two-time defending world champ opened her meet with an Olympic-record time of 1:05.64. The mark was exactly a second faster than the time China's Luo Xuejuan used to win gold in Athens.
Jones has taken this event to new heights the past few years and watching her become the first woman under 1:05 would not be shocking. If she pulls off that feat, it could be the result of a push from Russia's Yuliya Efimova. The rising teenage star was second to Jones in the prelims, her clocking 1:06.08 making her the No. 3 performer in history and the European-record holder.
After Jones and Efimova, there was a sizable dropoff to the third through fifth finishers. Taking the third position for the semifinals was Austria's Mirna Jukic (1:07.06), with fourth and fifth occupied by American Rebecca Soni (1:07.44) and South Africa's Suzaan van Biljon (1:07.55). Soni, of course, has taken the place of Jessica Hardy, who withdrew from the U.S. Team after one of her doping tests at Trials came back positive. Jukic, meanwhile, appeared to have set a European record in the 200 breast recently, until it was revealed that the pool was too short.
China's Sun Ye (1:07.81) and Aussie Tarnee White (1:07.83) were sixth and seventh while eighth went to Sweden's Joline Hostman (1:07.91). The rest of the semifinal field will include 2000 Olympic champ Megan Jendrick (1:08.07), Canada's Jillian Tyler (1:08.13), Great Britain's Kate Haywood (1:08.18), China's Chen Huijia (1:08.24), Canada's Annamay Pierse (1:08.25), Britain's Kirsty Balfour (1:08.30), Japan's Asami Kitagawa (1:08.36) and Belgium's Elise Matthysen (1:08.37).