By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, March 25. THE preliminary action of the men's 100 backstroke was a jam-packed affair, setting the stage for a pair of sensational semifinals during the evening session. Austrian Markus Rogan, the former Stanford University standout, topped the morning heats by covering the two-lap race in 54.34.
Rogan was the silver medalist in the 200 backstroke at the last edition of the World Champs and will undoubtedly vie for a podium position in the shorter distance. World-record holder and two-time defending champion Aaron Peirsol was fourth in the prelim round, moving through his first race of the competition in 54.88. Peirsol holds the global standard at 53.17 and owns the four-fastest times ever recorded.
Taking the second and third berths for the semifinal round were Great Britain's Liam Tancock and South Africa's Gerhard Zandberg, posting respective times of 54.54 and 54.83. Greece's Aristeidis Grigoriadis was fifth in 54.95 and European champ Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia was sixth in 55.00. American Ryan Lochte, racing next to Peirsol in the last heat, was ninth in 55.08.