PARIS, France, August 3. THE second night of the star-studded Paris Open rolls on as the USA Swimming Nationals swimmers are competing in day four preliminary and time trials in Indianapolis, Ind.
One of our European correspondents, Steven Selthoffer, is at the meet. We have included his notes and quotes in italics.
Men's 50 freestyle semifinals
Stefan Nystrand of Sweden led the way into finals with a time of 22.15, while the United States' Jason Lezak will swim next to him after a second-place time of 22.31.
Canada's Brent Hayden (22.40), Russia's Andrey Kapralov (22.45), Croatia's Duje Draganja (22.49) and France's David Maitre (22.50) grabbed third through sixth place.
Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago's George Bovell (22.56) and Poland's Lukasz Gasior (22.68) made up the rest of the finale.
Notably, France's Alain Bernard, who moved into a tie for third-place all time with Gary Hall Jr. this summer, missed finals with a ninth-place 22.69.
Women's 50 butterfly semifinals
World-record holder Therese Alshammar of Sweden will swim in lane four next to the United States' Margaret Hoelzer after clocking a 26.41 against Hoelzer's 26.91 in semis.
Russia's Natalia Sutyagina (27.07) and Irina Bespalova (27.09) will bracket them with third and fourth-place finishes, while Israel's Anna Gostomelsky (27.12), France's Malia Metella (27.22), Israel's Amit Ivri (27.26) and Croatia's Sanja Jovanovic (27.31) complete the rest of the championship contenders.
Men's 100 butterfly finals
Russia's Nikolay Skvortsov won the first title on offer tonight with a time of 52.44 in the men's 100 fly. Meanwhile, Ukraine's Denys Sylant'yev placed second in 52.73, while Sweden's Lars Frolander rounded out the top three in 52.75.
In the men's 100 fly, Lars Frolander, SWE, just keeps going and going… Frolander was off to a good start, leaving the blocks in .73 and was in second place at the wall with a 24.72 split, Denys Sylant'yev, UKR was first with a 24.54 and Nikolay Skvortsov, RUS, in third with a 24.83. But, in the last 15 meters things changed. Skvortsov took charge and stroked home to a 52.44 win, with Sylant'yev second in 52.73 and Frolander third in 52.75.
Women's 100 freestyle finals
World-record holder Britta Steffen of Germany nearly clocked another top-10 time in the world when she ripped off a 53.80 to cruise to the women's 100 free title.
France's Alena Popchanka picked up second in 54.60, while Canada's Erica Morningstar finished third in 54.94.
Britta Steffen, GER, was on a mission. In charge and mentally tough, she took out the 100 in a 26.15 jamming her turn. Her feet looked like they almost didn't come out of the water. Clearly not her best, yet it didn't matter. Bringing it home, she pulled away from the field in a stunning 53.80. The 53 second barrier is going to be no problem for her on a good day. Focused and well trained, she showed what she is capable of doing in a less-than-perfect race. Second was Alena Popchanka, FRA with a 54.60. Third went to Erica Morning Star, CAN, in a 54.94. Rounding out the top eight were 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, Petra Dallmann, GER, in 55.58, Tatiana Rouba Bieniarz, ESP, in 55.63, Celine Couderc; FRA, 55.66, Jana Klusackova, CZE, 55.95 and Melanie Marshall, GBR, 56.13.
Rising star Tatiana Rouba Bieniarz, ESP, said, "It felt really good. Especially in the last 50. I'm moving down from the 200 to the 100 my goal is a low 54, but, my coach thinks I can go 53 (He's right. She can.).
I'm changing my technique for the 100 from a distance stroke rotation to a sprint free stroke. I'll be ready for Beijing."
Men's 100 breaststroke finals
Ukraine's Valeriy Dymo won a barn-burner as he barely held off Russia's Dmitry Komornikov, 1:01.24 to 1:01.29, for the top prize in the men's 100 breast.
Ukraine's Igor Borysik also joined the fray as he took third place just .01 seconds behind Komornikov with a time of 1:01.30.
The 100 produced no surprises. Valeriy Dymo, UKR, led wall-to-wall, out in 28.79 and home, winning in a 1:01.24. Dmitry Komornikov, RUS, took second in 1:01.29, and Igor Borysik, UKR, was third in a tight 1:01.30.
Women's 200 breaststroke finals
Austria's Mirna Jukic dominated the women's 200 breast finals with a time of 2:25.46, while Poland's Ivona Predecka finished second in 2:28.60 in the closest swim of the final. Ukraine's Yuliya Pidlisna held off the United States' Amanda Beard, 2:28.65 to 2:28.68, for the bronze.
The crowd was rocking during one of the premier events of the evening, the women's 200 breast. The moment was perfect for an exciting race. Mirna Jukic, AUT, led at the first 50 with a 33.51 followed by Amanda Beard, USA, in a 33.94 to a roaring crowd sensing the competition. With US swimmers now invited to a major European meet, it's taking everyone up a notch. Jukic touched first at the 100 in 1:10.42 with Amanda Beard, USA, in second at 1:11.35. However, coming home with 20M to go, Jukic stretched it out ahead of the field and winning in 2:25.46. Iwona Predecka, POL, was second 2:28.60, Yuliya Pidlisna,UKR, third, 2:28.65 and Amanda Beard, USA, finishing out of the medals in fourth at 2:28.68.
Beard displayed the mental toughness that has gotten her where she is today. "My first 50 was crap. The first 25 was OK, but, no excuses. I am surprised with the time considering where I am in my training. I've been doing some more weight training, but, everything is geared to Beijing. I'm training with Dave Salo at USC so I'm happy. No excuses. It's time to think about the other races."
Men's 400 freestyle finals
Italy's Massimiliano Rosolino won by more than a second in the men's 400 free with an effort of 3:47.09, while Poland's Pawel Korzeniowski placed second in 3:48.18. Russia's Nikita Lobintsev snagged third place in 3:49.03.
Athen's 200m Olympic gold medalist Massimiliano Rosolino, ITA, took charge early on, taking out the first 100 in a 55.18. Nikita Lobintsev, RUS, was next in 55.81. Massi was not threatened until the final 25 meters when Pawel Korzeniowski, POL, made a move in the outside Lane 8 with Massi breathing on the left side looking to Lane 1. Massi caught him just in time to hold him off, winning in a 3:47.09. Korzeniowski's second place in 3:48.18, Nikita Lobintsev, RUS, was third in 3:49.03. Rounding out the field were Sebastian Rouault, FRA, 3:49.72, Federico Colbertaldo, ITA, 3:50.48, Paul Biedermann, GER, 3:50.63, Mateusz Sawrymowicz, POL, 3:51.30 and Ryan Cochran, CAN, 3:51.64.
Women's 100 backstroke finals
Laure Manaudou of France and Ukraine's Iryna Amshennkova gave the fans an exciting finish as they deadlocked at 1:01.46 with the United States' Margaret Hoelzer almost joining them with a 1:01.48 in an extremely close finish.
The women's 100 Back featured the premier French star, Laure Manaudou, FRA, qualifying first in Lane 4. In Lane 5 was Iryna Amshennikova, UKR, and in Lane 3, an American challenger to the European order, Margaret Hoelzer, from the USA. The crowd was standing from the gun. Amshennikova took it out in a 29.76, with Kateryna Zubkova, UKR, in second at 30.02, and Manaudou third at 30.03. Then Hoelzer made her move. Getting stronger and stronger Hoelzer made up lost time on the second 50, taking the lead with 5 meters to go. With the crowd standing and realizing an upset was possible, Hoelzer gliding and kicking the last meter, reached for the wall leading by half a meter. Manaudou and Amshennikova stretched also, in the full force of their downward strokes, edging out Hoelzer and tying for first, in 1:01.46, taking the win away, from the now third-place American. The crowd screamed, and then finally breathed.
Hoelzer later added, "I'm not fully rested, but, I'm happy. I'm still very pleased." Smiling, Hoelzer stepped on to the victory stand to receive her medal knowing she's left some unfinished business in Paris.
Nikolett Szepesi, HUN, was 6th, in 1:02.18. She was 6th in World Championships 200 Back. "I'd rather not think about the first 50. Last week (Hungarian National Championships) I was out in a 29.66 and today a 31.45. On the whole I'm tired, it's the end of the season."
Men's 200 backstroke finals
Former world-record holder Aaron Peirsol gave it a go, but could not clear Ryan Lochte's global standard of 1:54.32. Regardless, Peirsol posted the sixth-fastest performance all time to win in 1:54.77. The time also finished just shy of Michael Phelps' 1:54.65 that won Phelps the U.S. National title in the 200 back this week.
Austria's Markus Rogan touched in 1:55.74 for second, while Russia's Arkady Vyatchanin took third in 1:58.04.
The marquee event of the night was the men's 200 Back. Aaron Peirsol, USA, happy and lean slipped into the water and readied for the start. Friend and competitor Markus Rogan, AUS, was next to him. The horn blew and Peirsol shot out. Hitting the wall first in 56.18 Peirsol was slightly behind WR pace. Rogan hit in 57.09. On the final 50 Peirsol was gaining on the WR pace reducing it to only .53 hitting the wall in 1:54.77 missing it by only .45 second. Markus Rogan was second in 1:55.74 and Arkady Vyatchanin, RUS, third in 1:58.04.
Peirsol added, "It was quite simple, I was going for the (world) record and how I placed was good. It's the environment for fast times here. It's sunny, it's hot, it's great. It's a good swim. I've got the 100 to go. I felt better here. I still have to work to do on the 200. I'm happy with where I am. The WR is priority Number 1. I went for it."
Isreal's Itai Chama finished 7th, "It wasn't that great, but I'll be going to Ohio State this fall. I'm looking forward to it."
Women's 50 butterfly finals
World-record holder Therese Alshammar of Sweden put a scare into her world record time of 25.46, but fell just short with a readout of 25.60 to conquer the field.
Israel's Anna Gostomelsky placed second in 26.75, while Russia's Natalia Sutyagina claimed third in 26.86.
Notably, the United States' Margaret Hoelzer wound up sixth in 27.25.
In the brute event of the evening, going for the win, Swede, Therese Alshammar posted the fastest time finishing first in 25.60. Anna Gostomelsky, ISR, did well in second at 26.75 and Natalia Sutyagina, RUS, was third in 26.86.
Men's 50 freestyle finals
Sweden's Stefan Nystrand clocked a personal-best time of 21.93 to win the splash-and-dash, while France's David Maitre touched second in 22.22. Russia's Andrey Kapralov closed out the top three in 22.33.
Additionally, the United States' Jason Lezak finished seventh in 22.48.
The crowd was standing and cheering as the men's 50 free names were being read out over the loud speaker. Standing in the sun, Jason Leezak, USA, mounted his block in the classic Leezak position.
Boom. It was on. By the first 25m Stefan Nystrand, SWE, was in control in first, clearing the field. Hitting the wall in first, in 21.93. David Maitre, FRA, was second 22.22 to a roaring French crowd, and Andrey Kapralov, RUS, third in 22.33. Top French sprinter Alain Bernard, FRA, finished semi's in 9th at 22.69 missing the big final. George Bovell, TRI, finished 4th in 22.37, Duje Draganja, CRO, 5th 22.39, Brent Hayden, CAN, 6th 22.41, Jason Leezak, USA, 7th 22.48 and Lukasz Gasior, POL, 8th in 22.59.
Women's 800 freestyle finals
Wow! Talk about a close race. It isn't often that an 800 freestyle comes down to the touch, but only .03 seconds separated Great Britain's Rebecca Adlington and Spain's Erika Villaecija at the finish of the women's 800 free.
Adlington came out on top with a time of 8:29.21, while Villaecija placed second in 8:29.24.
France's Sophie Huber stopped the clock in 8:33.45 to finish in third place.
Men's 400 medley relay finals
Russia's team of Arkady Vyatchanin (54.75), Dmitry Komornikov (1:01.58), Nikolay Skvortsov (51.69) and Evgeny Lagunov (49.99) topped the men's 400 medley relay in 3:38.01.
Ukraine's contingent of Olexandr Protsenko (56.90), Igor Borysik (1:00.65), Artem Pron (52.76) and Yuriy Yegoshin (49.24) took second in 3:39.55, while Spain's squad of Aschwin Wildeboer Faber (55.69), Borja Iradier (1:01.70), Rafael Munoz Perez (53.18) and Eduard Lorente (49.25) finished third in 3:39.82.
Earlier today, Swimming World Magazine spoke with Jan Wiederek, Chef de Delegation, POL, on the rise of Polish swimming in the past three years. "We are going stronger every year. Things are much better now than let's say, 10 or 15 years ago. We have developed a new system in training for Beijing. We have a central training system and it's getting better every year. There are constant improvements. We identify new talent more quickly and move them into special training programs programs. (Laughing) Sometimes the school teachers don't like it. But, the swimmers do. We have three top level coaches. Pawel Slominski who coaches Otylia Jedrzejczak; Piotr Woznicki who overseas the training program of Pawel Korzeniowski; and Miroslaw Drozid who guides Mateusz Sawrymowicz. All three are strong. We also have developed a centralized sport medical facility at the Karolina Medical Center for applied sport science, innovation and anti-doping controls. We, our entire team, are dedicated to fighting doping 100%, anytime, anywhere.
(Smiling) I remember years ago, in 1978, we always wanted to get Swimming World Magazine from the USA. You know, how difficult things were then (referring to historic USSR-USA issues) It was very important for us to get copies and to know what was going on. Everything has changed. It's much better now. We have no problem getting it. We can get copies whenever we want.
After this meet we are going to Japan for the August 18 Grand Prix. We will be going to the Sierra Nevada's (Spain) for high altitude training gearing up for the meet on August 19, the same time next year in Beijing. 2007-08 is going to be a special year.