By John Lohn
LONG BEACH, Calif., July 11. THE anticipated 200 backstroke duel between Aaron Peirsol and Michael Phelps continued to shape up, with both men winning their preliminary heats in convincing fashion, and with little effort.
Going without a cap, Peirsol turned in the top time of the morning session, as he went 1:58.89 in the final heat. Peirsol, who won the 100 back earlier in the competition, holds the world record at 1:55.15. That standard is in jeopardy this week.
Phelps captured top honors in the third heat, negative-splitting his race en route to a time of 1:59.94. Only Phelps and Peirsol dipped under the two-minute barrier. Phelps is the second-fastest individual in the history of the event, at 1:55.30.
Dan Westcott claimed the third seed heading into the evening semifinals, behind a time of 2:00.39. He was followed in qualifying by Hongzhe Sun, who prevailed in the second heat in 2:00.41, and Bryce Hunt (2:00.77). Chris DeJong (2:01.17), Trent Staley (2:01.76), Doug Van Wie (2:01.91) and Luke Wagner (2:01.95) also went under 2:02.