Short Course World Champs, Day 2 Prelims: Jenny Thompson Leads the Way in the 50 Fly

By Phillip Whitten

INDIANAPOLIS, October 8. Last night the host USA had it all its way, winning all five of the finals contested. Tonight, however, promises to be a very different evening of swimming, as Americans qualified first in only two of seven events: Jenny Thompson in the women’s 50-meter fly and the U.S. men’s 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay.

Jason Lezak, who qualified second in the 50 free, is hoping to move up a rung in tomorrow’s final as will as this evening’s semifinals.

Here’s how it went this morning at the Conseco Field House.

Women’s 100-meter Freestyle
Holland’s Marleen Veldhuis qualified first in the prelims of the women’s 100m free in 54.74 this morning, on Day Two of the FINA Short Course World Championships in Indianapolis. But she was hard pressed by the Aussie duo of Lisbeth Lenton (54.75) and Shayne Reese (54.81) in the #2 and 3 spots.

Only two other women – Finland’s Hanna-Maria Seppala (54.90) and Sweden’s Josefin Lillhage (54.99) — swam under 55 seconds.

The US duo of Lindsay Benko and Kara Lynn Joyce made it through to the semifinals, Benko qualifying in a tie for eighth at 55.22, and Joyce in the 11th spot at 55.25.

It took 55.97 to make the top 16.

Men’s 400-meter Individual Medley
When it was announced that Michael Phelps had scratched the 400 IM, where he was aiming to crack the four-minute barrier, a collective sigh of relief was heard from his 26 competitors. Now the race was wide-open.

Australian newcomer Adam Lucas nabbed the top spot and a lane 4 seeding in the final with his 4:11.66, just ahead of China’s Wu Peng, 17, who touched just 8-hundredths behind. Britain’s Robin Francis, riding a sizzling 1:09.09 split in the breaststroke, was third-fastest at 4:12.04.

It took 4:13.54 to make the final, with Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli (tied for 5th in 4:13.06) and the USA’s Eric Shanteau (7th in 4:13.48) threats to medal and possibly take all the marbles.

Women’s 50-meter Butterfly
If this is, indeed, Jenny Thompson’s final meet, the 31 year-old superstar has every intention of making the last one a fast one.

Thompson topped all qualifiers in the 50 fly this morning with a strong 26.40, well ahead of Sweden’s Anna-Karin Kammerling, the WR-holder (26.72) and 34 year-old Austrian Judith Draxler (26.77). The second American, Rachel Komisarz, was 10th in 27.25, as it took 27.56 to move along to the semifinals.

Several sleepers among the top 16 are genuine medal threats: Slovakia’s Martina Moravcova (6th in 26.92), Australia’s Lisbeth Lenton (9th in 27.24) and Belarus’ Alena Popchanka (in q 3-way tie for 14th in 27.56).

Men’s 50-meter Freestyle
Argentina’s Jose Meolans, the defending champion and championship record-holder in the 50 free with his 21.36 swum in Moscow in 2002, topped all qualifiers this morning in 21.82. The USA’s Jason Lezak was right beind at 21.89, followed by Brazil’s fast-rising Nicholas Santos (21.90) and Croatia’s Olympic silver medallist in this event, Duje Draganja (21.97)..

Australia’s Jeff English was fifth in 22.01 followed by the second American, Nick Brunelli (22.03). Britain’s Mark Foster, the former WR-holder was seventh (22.05), while Finland’s Jere Hard and Sweden’s Stefan Nystrand tied for eighth.

Among the remaining seven qualifiers for tonight’s semifinals, Algeria’s Salim Iles seems the most likely to advance to the final.

Women’s 100-meter Individual Medley
Australian Olympian Brooke Hanson had only the seventh fastest first 50 of the 100-meter IM, but she used her powerful breaststroke leg to take the lead and held on in the freestyle. The 27 year-old Queenslander touched first in 1:01.06, almost half a second ahead of Finalnd’s Hanna-Maria Seppala (1:01.55).

Slovakia’s Martina Moravcova, who had the fastest first 50 (28.44), qualified third in 1:01.66, just ahead of the American duo of Katie Hoff (1:01.74) and Amanda Beard (1:02.07).

Thirty-two year-old British sprinter Alison Sheppard held down the sixth spot in 1:02.19, while Australia’s Shayne Reese (1:02.36) and China’s 14 year-old Zhang Tianyi (1:02.73). It took 1:04.18 to make top 16 and move on to the next round.

Men’s 4 x 200-meter Freestyle Relay
Not too long ago, the Aussie men stood astride the 4 x 200-meter free relay like the Colossus of old. But take away a swimmer or three – oh, say, Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Daniel Kowalski — and the Aussies just aren’t that tough.

This morning the US team of Dan Ketchum (1:46.01), Chad Carvin (1:46.15), Justin Mortimer (1:47.39) and Scott Goldblatt (1:47.58) stroked to the top qualifying spot in the 800-meter relay in 7:07.13, just over four seconds ahead of Australia (7:11.15), with Russia edging Brazil for the third spot, 7:14.91 to 7:15.50.

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