By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, March 29. WITH two silver medals already to his credit, in the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley, the United States' Ryan Lochte will try to bump up a notch tomorrow in the final of the 200 backstroke. Lochte led the semifinal qualifying with a time of 1:55.99 and heads into the championship race as the top seed.
But for Lochte to mine gold, he'll need the performance of his life because of the presence of teammate Aaron Peirsol. The three-time defending champion and world-record holder, Peirsol is undefeated in major international competition since grabbing the silver medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Peirsol was the second-fastest qualifier, cruising to the wall in 1:56.39. His global mark is 1:54.44 and is likely to be lowered.
"The way they compete today, especially the races I swim, in order to win you need to break a world record," Lochte said. "It's a good challenge. I like it."
The silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and at the 2005 World Champs, Austria's Markus Rogan posted the third mark heading into the final. The former Stanford standout turned in a time of 1:56.62, nearly a second clear of European champion Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia (1:57.56). The fifth spot went to Romania's Razvan Florea (1:58.59) and sixth was taken by Great Britain's James Goddard (1:58.68). Also reaching the final were Japan's Tomomi Morita (1:58.91) and Great Britain's Gregor Tait (1:59.52).