ADELAIDE, Australia, April 27. ALICIA Coutts put herself at the top of the world rankings not once, but twice today at the Australian long course nationals, which is serving as the country's world championship selection meet. Maddison Elliott also took down her Paralympic world record in the 50 free tonight.
Swimming Australia has implemented qualifying times for the world championships that are faster than the FINA A qualifying standards. Specifically, the top two finishers must equal or beat the time swum by the eighth-place finisher at the 2011 world championships in non-Olympic events.
Coutts started the session with a blazing 57.18 in the 100 fly final, moving up to the top of the world list from her fourth-place 58.00 from the New South Wales championships last month. It's not far off her best time, a 56.85 that she swam in the 2012 Olympic semifinal. Coutts is not only the reigning Olympic bronze medalist in the event, she's the reigning world championships silver medalist, with Dana Vollmer winning both finals. Placing second in the 100 fly today was Britta Elmslie with a 58.02. The time is faster than the FINA automatic qualifying standard of 58.89, but just shy of Australia's qualifying time of 57.97. Ellen Gandy, newly instated as an Australia citizen after years of representing Great Britain while training Down Under, was third with a 58.15 after posting a 57.99 in finals.
About an hour later, Coutts was back in the 200 IM, routing the field with a 2:08.63 win that puts her ahead of Olympic rival Ye Shiwen's 2:09.08 in the world standings. Coutts swam a 2:08.15 to win silver last year at the Olympics. Notably, Coutts was a few tenths faster on her butterfly and backstroke legs today than she was in London, with her cumulative splits faster through the 150-meter mark in Adelaide. Finishing second today behind Coutts with a world champs qualifying time of 2:11.11 was Emily Seebohm, who will need to break 2:10 to be competitive in Barcelona, a barrier she has not broken since winning the 2010 Pan Pacific championships with a 2:09.93. Taylor McKeown placed third in the event today with a 2:13.55.
Christian Sprenger was unable to get under 59 seconds in the men's 100 breaststroke final today, but won with a 59.31 a day after his 59.05 semifinal swim that ranks No. 1 in the world. Brenton Rickard will compete in a fourth world championships, placing second with a 1:00.00. Kenneth To, the reigning World Cup men's champion, placed third with a 1:01.85.
Matt Targett won the men's 50 fly final with a 23.20, one of three swimmers to break Chris Wright's meet record of 23.79. Targett maintains his fourth-placing standing in the world rankings. Mitch Patterson claimed second with a 23.58 and Wright was third with a 23.72. Australia requires athletes who place in the top two in non-Olympic events such as the 50 fly to qualify in Olympic events, which Targett and Patterson look to do later in the meet.
In semifinal action, the men's 200 free featured a tight battle just to get into the top eight for tomorrow's final. Cameron McEvoy will take lane four in the final, posting a 1:46.59, that improves his lifetime best by a little more than a second. The time is faster than Australia's cut for making the world championship team, but he will need to replicate it in the final — or go faster — to beat the talented field. Qualifying second was Thomas Fraser-Holmes with a 1:47.52, who stumbled on the blocks in yesterday's 400 free prelims and was disqualified. James Magnussen, the reigning world champion in the 100 free, qualified third in 1:47.93 in an attempt to make his international 200 free racing debut.
Ashley Delaney continues to carry the flag for Australian backstroke, qualifying first in the men's 100 backstroke semifinals with a 53.70. While he broke Hayden Stoeckel's meet record of 53.98, the time is .01 off Australia's automatic qualifying time, which he will look to beat in tomorrow's final. Robert Hurley, who spent three months training at the University of Arizona, qualified second with a 54.02, while Daniel Arnamnart was third with a 54.28.
Leiston Pickett led a quartet of times under 1:09 in the women's 100 breast semifinals, qualifying first with a 1:08.00. Samantha Marshall was second with a 1:08.16 and Sally Foster was third with a 1:08.76. Also of interest in the event was the 11th-place finish by 41-year-old Olympian Linley Frame with a 1:11.31 and Sweden's Jennie Johansson's 1:06.31 in prelims. That time breaks her own national record of 1:07.10 from March 2012 and puts her second in the world behind Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte.
Belinda Hocking took the top qualifying spot in the women's 100 backstroke semifinals with a 1:00.24. Seebohm swam a 1:00.44 for second just minutes before the 200 IM final, and Madison Wilson was third with a 1:00.80.
In disability swimming action, the crowd was treated to a world record by Maddison Elliott in the women's 50 freestyle. Elliott, racing in the S8 division, swam a 30.28 to break her own record of 30.69. Daniel Fox swam the top time in the men's disability 50 free final with a 24.55 ahead of Mitchell Kilduff's 25.73 and Paralympian Matt Cowdry's 25.96.