By Stephen J. Thomas
BARCELONA, July 22. IT was a hot night in Barcelona and Michael Phelps added to the heat by blasting a new world record in the 200 fly, breaking his old mark by 0.65 seconds, recording 1:53.93.
The brother-sister team of Aaron and Hayley Peirsol took gold and silver, respectively, in two brilliant performances. Aaron missed Lenny K’s 100 back world mark by just 0.01 seconds.
The Thorpedo took his second gold, beating his Olympic nemesis, Hoogie, in the 200 free, as did German distance ace Hannah Stockbauer in the 1500 free.
And Leisel Jones only managed bronze after setting a world record yesterday.
Women’s 100m breaststroke
Last night Aussie champ Leisel Jones wiped South African Penny Heyns ’99 world mark from the books when she splashed 1:06.37, more than a second faster any of the other qualifiers for tonight’s final.
Tonight, though, it was about racing and reigning world champ, China’s Luo Xuejuan, was not going to hand over her title without a fight. Luo went out very fast, well under world record pace (split 30.87 to WR 31.40), Jones was second (31.53), American Tara Kirk third (31.54), followed by Germany’s Sara Poewe (31.75) and American Amanda Beard (32.08).
The Chinese did not wilt in the sprint home, touching in an Asian record 1:06.80, the third fastest swim in history, and shaving 0.04 seconds off her previous best. Jones tightened a little at the finish and Beard, the more experienced racer, just edged the Aussie out for the silver in a PR 1:07.42 to 1:07.47. Kirk clocked 1:08.30 for fifth place.
Women’s 100m backstroke
The crowd favorite was Spain’s Nina Zhivanevskaya, but it was German Antje Buschschulte who took her first individual World Championship gold in a closely fought final. Denmark’s Louise Ornstedt, 17, led by 0.04 seconds at the turn from Buschschulte, but the German held her form nicely in the final lap to touch the pads in 1:00.50 to beat Ornstedt, who set a NR, in a tie for silver with England’s Katy Sexton in 1:00.86.
It was the second tie for silver in backstroke for the night. Buschschulte broke the German record, held by East Germany's Ina Kleber, which had stood since 1984. She described her win as the greatest moment in her sporting life and somewhat unexpected coming into the meet.
"I felt I had a good chance for a medal but with Natalie (Coughlin) not in the final my chances to win were much better," she said. World record-holder American Nat Coughlin missed qualification due to a high fever.
Women’s 1500m freestyle
German Hannah Stockbauer, the reigning title-holder, and the USA’s Diana Munz were certainly expected to fight it out for the gold tonight.
Stockbauer, who had already taken gold in the 400 free, started to assert her control on the race in the second 400 taking a four-second lead over American’s Hayley Peirsol and Munz by the 800-meter mark. Surprisingly it was the experienced Munz who started to tire, with Germany’s 30-year-old Jana Henke moving past to challenge the 17-year-old Peirsol.
At the finish, Stockbauer easily retained her title, breaking her own championship record by 0.84 seconds to touch in 16:00.18. It was the fourth fastest swim in history but she just missing dipping below the magical 16-minute barrier, where only distance legend Janet Evans has ventured.
Peirsol, to her credit, held on to take silver in 16:09.64, just over seventeen seconds faster than her PR coming into this meet, a great effort. Henke finished half a second behind to take the bronze in 16:10.13. Canadian rookie Brittany Reimer set a new national record in finishing sixth in 16:15.98.
Men’s 200m free
The two fastest men in history over the four-laps, Ian Thorpe and Pieter van de Hoogenband, were set for yet another titanic duel. As expected, it was Hoogie, the world record-holder for the two-lap race, taking the final out hard, much as he had done at the Euros last year, under world record pace at the turn (WR split 51.45) – Hoogie 51.38, Thorpe 51.50, followed by American Nate Dusing and Slovakian Peter Mankoc and the other Aussie, distance king Grant Hackett fifth in 51.97.
Thorpe surged to the lead in the third lap and moved comfortably to the wall in 1:45.14 (the 8th fastest swim all-time). Hoogie held his pace to finish in 1:46.43 with Hackett moving away from the rest of the field to take the bronze in 1:46.85.
Thorpe now holds seven of the eight best times in history, broken only by Hoogie’s 1:44.89 from the Euros last year. American Nate Dusing finished eighth in a disappointing 1:49.35, well off his PR 1:47.08.
Thorpe said after the race, "I’m pleased with today’s result but thought the time was average. I was aware where Peter was the whole race but I really wanted to concentrate on my own swimming. My tactics today were to go out fast — around 51 low — and aim to build speed into the last fifty. I think Peter was a bit disappointed and so was I. It was a good result but not a great result."
Men’s 100 backstroke
American Aaron Peirsol clocked a championship record 54.28 to qualify fastest for tonight’s final and set up a battle with Aussie rival and title-holder Matt Welsh.
It was the Aussie who got the jump on the field to flip in 25.96, just 0.01 under American Lenny Krazelberg’s WR split. Peirsol turned second in 26.20, German Steffen Driesen third (26.46) and brilliant Russian teenager, Arkady Vyatchanin, back in fourth place (26.66).
Peirsol, the 200 back world record-holder, came home over the top of the Aussie, touching just 0.01 outside the world record in a CR 53.61. Welsh tired noticeably under the flags only to dead-heat with the Russian for silver in 53.92 (equal 10th fastest all-time swim).
Vyatchanin came into the meet with a ’03 best of 55.40; he is now the fifth fastest all-time performer in this event.
Peirsol said of his record: "At the 50-meter mark I knew I was in a good position. I went out well and came back so incredibly fast. I did what I wanted to do."
Welsh said, "The last few meters were really hard. I’ve got the day off tomorrow to rest for the 200."
Men's 200m butterfly
American Michael Phelps put his first stamp on this meet when he smashed his own world and championship record by 0.65, going a sensational 1:53.93. Phelps was .08 off the pace at the halfway mark before moving 0.43 under world pace at the 150m.
50 100 150 200
Phelps, '01 25.64 54.81 1:24.71 1:54.58
Phelps, '03 25.95 54.89 1:24.28 1:53.93
Phelps said after his record-breaking swim: "My coach and I were focusing on the 200 fly this year and it seems to be working. This meet was good preparation for the Olympics next year, that’s why I’m swimming in so many other events. I definitely wanted to do my best time so I didn’t hold back for tomorrow. I was not looking for world records, I just wanted to swim well and do my best. This swim tonight was definitely the best feel I’ve ever had swimming fly."
Fellow American Tom Malchow qualified equal second with Brit Stephen Parry in 1:55.90, giving the USA a good chance of a 1-2 sweep with the same two swimmers at consecutive champs. Japan’s Takashi Yamamoto will be in the mix for a minor medal
Aussie rookie 17-year-old Travis Nederpelt produced another eye-catching performance with another PR 1:57.28 (fourth fastest Aussie all-time performer) to swim tomorrow.
Women’s 200m freestyle
The USA’s Lindsay Benko was fastest qualifier for the final in 1:59.13 (she clocked 1:58.84 in the heats). The other seven qualifiers were all within 0.42 seconds, suggesting an open race tomorrow night. Aussie Elka Graham, China’s Yang Yu, Swede Josefin Lillhage, France’s Solenne Figues, Alena Popchanka from Belarus, Martina Moravcova and American 17-year-old Rhiannon Jeffrey make up the field.
Men’s 50m breaststroke
Britain’s James Gibson splashed a new championship record 27.46 to break the old mark held by world record-holder Ukranian Oleg Lisogor by 0.06 seconds, the third fastest swim all-time. He now holds four of the ten best swims over the distance.
Gibson looked the goods for the one-lap race last night when he led the two-lap race well under world record pace at the turn only to fade slightly to take bronze. Lisogor was second into the final finishing behind the Brit in 27.86. Thirty-three year-old German Mark Warnecke (27.91) and another Brit, Darren Mew, (27.98) were also dipped under the 28-second mark.
Hungarian Mihaly Flaskay who went 27.84 in the heats qualified for the final in 28.03. The oldest swimmer in pool competition, Hungary's Karoly Guttler, just missed the final, finishing ninth.
American record-holder Ed Moses who, uncharacteristically, is struggling here, missed the cut in 13th place (28.36).