By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, March 28. THEY went one-two in the 100 backstroke and the prospect of a repeat performance in the 200 distance is looking very much probable. During the preliminary heats of the 200 back, the American tandem of Aaron Peirsol and Ryan Lochte easily led qualifying into the semifinal round.
The three-time defending world champion, Peirsol entered the prelims off a world-record showing in the 100 back two nights earlier. He moved through the four-lap race in 1:57.79 to edge the 1:57.95 turned in by Lochte, the world-record holder in the short-course versions of the 100 and 200 backstrokes. Peirsol has not lost a 200 back race since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
The top eight featured a strong list of competitors, as Great Britain's James Goddard checked in as the third-quickest swimmer of the morning. Goddard stopped the clock in 1:58.36 and was followed by Markus Rogan, the reigning Olympic silver medalist. Rogan, also the silver medalist at the World Champs two years ago in Montreal, was timed in 1:59.00.
Romania's Razvan Florea (1:59.25) and Japan's Tomomi Morita (1:59.37) occupied the next two positions and Russian Arkady Vyatchanin and Britain's Gregor Tait shared seventh in 1:59.85. Vyatchanin is the reigning European champion.