By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, March 27. FOLLOWING up on the hot swimming from Tuesday night, Leila Vaziri got the Wednesday action rolling in impressive fashion, setting an American and championship record in the preliminary round of the 50 backstroke. The Indiana University standout touched the wall in 28.25, erasing last night's standard of Natalie Coughlin, which stood at 28.30, during her world record 100 back time.
Vaziri has emerged as a major player over the last year to strengthen the backstroke disciplines in the United States. Swimming out of Lane One in the ninth heat, an unseeded grouping, Vaziri blasted away from the competition. She wasn't far off the world record of Germany's Janine Pietsch, who went 28.19 during the 2005 season.
The second and third positions for the semifinals went to Belarus' Aliaksandra Herasimenia (28.71) and France's Laure Manaudou (28.84), continuing to embrace a body-beating schedule. Manaudou has already race the 200, 400 and 1,500 freestyles and 50 and 100 backstrokes and the meet has yet to hit its halfway point. Pietsch and Japan's Reiko Nakamura tied as the fourth-fastest qualifiers, going 28.85.
Japan's Mai Nakamura was sixth in 28.89 and American Margaret Hoelzer and Aussie 14-year-old Emily Seebohm tied for seventh in 28.93.