By Craig Lord
MOSCOW, April 5. SWEDEN glowed in the limelight on Day Three of the World Short Course Championships as Therese Alshammar, after retaining her 100m freestyle
crown, Emma Igelstrom, after setting a European record of 1min 06.08sec in the semi-final of the 100m breaststroke, and Anna Karin Kammerling, after
winning the 50m butterfly in a championship record of 25.55sec, joined Johanna Sjoberg to establish a world record of 3mins 55.78sec in the 4 by 100m medley relay.
The Swedish splits were awesome: Alshammar 1:00.74 on back, Igelstrom 1:04.90 on breaststroke, Kammerling 57.12 on fly and Sjoberg 53.02 on free.
Behind them, the US quartet of Haley Cope, Amanda Beard, Rachel Komisarz and Lindsay Benko – who had earlier won the 200m backstroke in a championship record of 2mins 04.97 – established the fifth American
record of the meet, in 3mins 57.17sec, to take the silver medal ahead of China, at 3:57.29.
The race marked one of seven medals for the US in an action-packed session that saw East German Astrid Strauss's 1987 European record of 4:02.05 over 400 meters freestyle fall to Yana Klochkova in 4:01.26, and
Jani Sievinen, of Finland, establish his first record since the mid-1990s, a championship record of 1:55.45 in the 200m medley. Third behind him was Tom Wilkens, of the US, who had had a Big Mac and fries before
the finals in the belief that he had missed the final by one place. However, a withdrawal put Wilkens in the race and a 1:57.34 took the bronze medal behind Peter Makoc, of Slovenia, on 1:56.13.
Klochkova, of Ukraine, raced stroke for stroke with Chen Hua, of China until the half-way mark. It was then that she made her move, leaving Chen more than a second behind with 100 meters to go and staying on target to match Claudia Poll's world record. She could not match the Costa Rican's staying power, however, and faded off the pace before stopping the clock
1.23 seconds behind Poll's best but well up on Chen's 4:03.81. In third place for the US was Rachel Komisarz at 4:06.30.
Komisarz also clocked 58.16sec in the butterfly leg of the US-medal-winning relay and just missed out on a medal in the 50m butterfly, finishing fourth in 26.47sec.
The standard of the 400m race, good as it was, might have been even better, but for the absence through selection criteria of Lindsay Benko, who resigned herself to winning the 200m backstroke instead. "I'm so
excited," said Benko after her 2:04.97 championship record. "I didn't think I could swim that fast. I'm just happy to have the race over and get a final under my belt." Given her backstroke speed, watch out for
Benko in the 200m freestyle at the weekend.
Benko had imagined that her rivals in the race had been "closer to me". In fact, while not quite on the pace of Nathalie Coughlin and Sarah Price, the two women who have set the standards over 200m in the past several months, she was nonethless in a class of her own, Reiko Nakamura, of Japan, second in 2:07.30, with Irina Amshennikova, of Ukraine, third in 2:07.71.
Like Benko, Grant Hackett, the Olympic champion and world record holder over 1,500 meters, raced in his first individual final of the meet tonight – and proved himself yet again in a league occupied by only himself and absent Australian teammate Ian Thorpe.
Hackett set the pool alight with a 3:38.29 victory in a 400m freestyle final in which he took the first 150 meters out well inside his own world record pace.
Having withdrawn from the 200m on Day One to aid his recovery from a virus, Hackett only showed signs of a weakness in the second half of a race against the clock, the only man capable of feeling the wash from his feet Kvetoslav Svoboda, of the Czech Republic, who improved more than 5 seconds to take the silver medal in 3:41.97, with defending champion Chad Carvin, of the US, third in 3:43.55.
In view of his recent illness, Hackett has canceled a visit Britain next week, during which he would have toured facilities for the Commonwealth Games – which will be held in Manchester in the same week in July as the European Championships courtesy of bad decision-making by the European swimming league (LEN), the hosts in Berlin and German television. Hackett will instead return home to the Gold Coast.
Several events continue to be affected by the absence of the fastest in the world. The men's 200m breaststroke noticeably lacked the talents of Ed
Moses, world record holder, and Roman Sloudnov, the defending champion from Russia. However, reflecting the vast progress that has been made in global standards this winter, the top three all clocked 2:07 plus.
The crown went to Jim Piper, of Australia, in a championship record of 2:07.16sec even though 3.99 seconds shy of Moses's amazing record. Runner-up was American David Denniston, at 2:07.42, with Jarno Pihlava, of Finland, third in 2:07.61.
Denniston, after winning his first international medal, said: "It's really neat. I'ts an amazing experience. That's the fastest I've ever swum before, so I'm really happy."
Alshammar, who now trains at Loughborough University in England, retained her 100m freestyle crown in 52.89sec, pressed hard by US-trained Martina Moravcova, of Slovakia, whose 52.96 was the third fastest ever behind the Swede and Jenny Thompson, of the US. Third in 53.35sec was Xu Yanwei, the fastest Chinese woman since Le Jingyi won the inaugural short-course crown in 53.01 back in 1993.
Alshammar was back in the water within the hour for the final of the 50m butterfly. Her earlier efforts took a toll, however, and a time of 26.48sec left her
in fifth place behind teammate Kammerling, the champion in a championship record of 25.55 seconds, ahead of Petria Thomas, of Australia, at 26.26, with 17 year-old Vered Borochovski, third in a national record 26.38 to become the first woman to win a medal at world level for Israel.
Igelstrom's record set her up as fastest qualifier for the final of the 100m breaststroke ahead of defending champion Sarah Poewe, of South Africa, and China's Luo Xuejuan, both on 1:06.30. Amanda Beard, of the US, was
fourth best through on 1:06.81, with teammate Staciana Stitts also through, in seventh with 1:07.45.
Meanwhile, Moravcova was back in the water for the 100m medley, taking the title for a third successive time in 59.91 seconds, with Gabrielle Rose taking her first international medal for the US, in 1:00.68, and
the bronze going to Alison Sheppard, of Britain, setting a Commonwealth record of 1:00.88.
In the men's 50m freestyle, Mark Foster, of Britain, lost his crown and championship record in 21.36 seconds to Jose Martin Meolans, of Argentina. Foster was second in 21.44, to 21.55 for Alexander Popov, of Russia, and Oleksandr Volinets, of the Ukraine, with Jason Lezak, of the US, locked out of the medals in 21.65.
The fastest qualifiers for the 50m butterfly came from the second semi, Geoff Huegill, the Australian who holds the world record and won the 100m title on Day Two, fastest through in 23.11 seconds, with defending champion Foster second in 23.52 after easing off in the last 10 meters to conserve energy for the 50m freestyle in which he finished second later in the session.
Matt Welsh, of Australia, looked like the clear favorite for the 50m backstroke title tomorrow after setting the standard in the semis with a 23.76 effort to become the only man to dip below 24 seconds. For the US, Peter Marshall clocked 24.53 to qualify fifth fastest for the final, while teammate Aaron Peirsol, in 24.67, was fifth in the first semifinal, to finish ninth overall and miss the final by just 0.02 seconds.