By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, March 24. CATCH me if you can. That's the mentality France's Laure Manaudou has gone with while redefining the 400 freestyle. The world-record holder in the event, Manaudou established a meet standard during the morning prelims when she touched the wall in 4:05.29 at the FINA World Championships. Her global standard sits at 4:02.13 and the former meet record was 4:06.28, set by Aussie Tracey Wickham way back in 1978.
Racing in the same heat as Manaudou, Italy's Federica Pellegrini was the No. 2 qualifier for the championship final, going 4:06.51. In the penultimate heat, Japan's Ai Shibata and American Kate Ziegler went with each other for the eight laps. Shibata touched in 4:07.17, the slightest bit ahead of Ziegler, who clocked 4:07.18. Ziegler, though, seemed to have expended the least energy, not turning on the jets until the final turn.
The fifth-fastest qualifying position was secured by Aussie Linda Mackenzie in 4:07.26 while Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak was sixth in 4:08.16. Jedrzejczak has had a difficult run-up to these championships, as she was sentenced to a nine-month, suspended sentence earlier this week for causing the car accident that led to her brother's death. Jedrzejczak will have to perform community service as part of the punishment. For this week, however, she's focused on the pool and the impending faceoff with Aussie Jessicah Schipper in the 200 butterfly.
The final two places for the final went to Great Britain's Jo Jackson (4:08.17) and American Katie Hoff (4:08.38). Hoff was swimming the 400 free not long after posting the fastest qualifying time of the morning in the 200 I.M. How she handles the evening session remains to be seen, but the 200 I.M./400 free double isn't often tackled. Manaudou scratched the 200 I.M.
Check back for an updated story on this event as our team of Senior Writer John Lohn and CEO Brent Rutemiller, on the scene at Rod Laver Arena, provide in-depth coverage, along with radio and TV segments.