Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom Paces 100 Free Semis

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BARCELONA, Spain, August 1. SWEDEN’s Sarah Sjostrom downed her Swedish record by breaking through the 53-second barrier for the first time during semis of the women’s 100-meter free at the FINA World Championships.

If Sjostrom can hold up in finals, she would be the first swimmer from her country to win this particular event at Worlds. Sjostrom clocked a 52.87 to lead the semifinal rounds, surpassing her previous record of 53.05 with her time tonight matching Fran Halsall’s 52.87 from the 2009 FINA World Championships as the 10th-best ever. Sjostrom is looking for her second title of the meet, having already captured the 100-meter fly. Should she win, that’d be her third career world title along with a 100 fly win in 2009.

Sjostrom may have too much on her hands with Australia’s Cate Campbell, who went out under world-record pace with a 25.36 first 50 before settling in to take the second seed with a 53.09. She’s already crushed the textile best in the event with a 52.33 leadoff for the Aussies on night one in the women’s 400-meter freestyle relay, and has the potential to challenge Britta Steffen’s world record of 52.07 during the finale. She could be the first Australian since Libby Lenton (2007) to win the event.

The Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo, still shaking off the cobwebs after several days of rest since relay duty on night one, took third in 53.29, while teammate Femke Heemskerk finished fourth in 53.68.

USA’s Missy Franklin, who posted a lifetime best 53.36 this morning, cruised in semis with a fifth-place 53.78. Franklin, who already owns three golds this week, is looking to claim another medal in the 100 free. She’s chasing Kristin Otto’s record of six medals with four of them being gold.

Steffen, the world-record holder and 2009 champion, qualified sixth in 53.85. She’s been hamstrung by illness earlier in her training camp this year, but is rounding into form.

USA’s Shannon Vreeland (53.99) and China’s Tang Yi (54.09) also made the finale.

We go into it in more detail in our prelims report, but both reigning world champs Jeanette Ottesen Gray and Aliaksandra Herasimenia elected not to compete this year after tying for the title in 2011. Ottesen Gray is changing up her freestyle technique, and will not compete in the event again until she and her coach feel comfortable with the change. However, she kept her cut time to keep her options open. Meanwhile, Herasimenia decided to use the World University Games as her taper meet, and did not see the point of potentially having slower times here in Barcelona just a few weeks later.

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