By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, March 24. WITH the 400 freestyle on her plate later in the night, Katie Hoff needed to be smart about her attack of the 200 individual medley semifinals. Ultimately, the game plan featured the No. 1 qualifying mark by the second-fastest performer in history. Hoff covered the four-lap medley in 2:11.75.
The defending world champion, Hoff had the best split in the field at the 100- and 200-meter marks and figured to leave enough in the tank for her 400 free swim. Tomorrow, look for Hoff to take her time down considerably and make a run at the 1997, drug-tainted world record of China's Wu Yanyan (2:09.72). Hoff's personal-best is the American standard of 2:10.05.
The silver medalist to Hoff in Montreal two years ago, Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry was the second-fastest qualifier, going 2:12.50. Stephanie Rice of Australia was tad behind in 2:12.54 with Denmark's Julie Hjorth-Hansen going 2:13.14 for the fourth position. In all likelihood, the final is likely to come down to a duel between Hoff and Coventry, though history indicates Whitney Myers of the United States could also be a player. Myers was the fifth-fastest qualifier in 2:13.69, though she has been 2:10.11.
"I want to be up in the top three – it's a goal of mine," Coventry said. "I also have the 100 backstroke tomorrow so it will be tough but also exciting."
The sixth through eighth spots for the final went to Shayne Reese of Australia (2:14.10), Canada's Julia Wilkinson (2:14.94) and Argentina's Georgina Bardach (2:15.08).