World Champs, Day 4 Prelims: Kitajima Cruises to 200m Breast Championship Record; Descenza Tops Qualifiers in 200 Fly

BARCELONA, July 23. JAPAN’S sensational pocket rocket, Kosuke Kitajima, cruised to a new championship record of 2:10.66 in the prelims of the 200 meter breaststroke here this morning.

The Japanese ace swam his race with consummate ease, his stroke and timing looking perfect as he dipped under American Brendan Hansen’s CR by just 0.03 seconds. It’s often dangerous to tip a winner out of the prelims, but this guy looks in superb form having already taken gold and set a new world record in the two-lap race.

Kitajima only lost his world record last month in this event when Russian Dmitri Komornikov went 2:09.52 in the Mare Nostrum meet here in Barcelona. Kitajima is the only other swimmer in history to have gone under 2:10.

Brit Ian Edmond had a nice heat swim of 2:12.07, over a second in advance of Komornikov (2:13.35), Canada’s Michael Brown (2:13.38), another Russian, Andrei Ivanov (2:13.45), and Hungary's just-turned-14 boy wonder, Dani Gyurta (2:13.63). The reigning title-holder, Brendan Hansen qualified eighth in 2:13.92 while his US teammate Dave Denniston was DQ’ed.

Women’s 200 butterfly:
American Mary Descenza clocked a PR 2:09.08 to qualify fastest into the semis ahead of Hungarian teen star Eva Risztov (2:09.32), world record-holder Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland and 200 IM gold medalist, Yana Klochkova of Ukraine (2:10.30).

Next was Aussie teen Felicity Galvez, who used her Spanish heritage to her advantage to swim a PR 2:10.69. American Emily Mason will also swim tonight after clocking 2:12.33.

Men’s 100 freestyle
The "big guns" — Pieter van den Hoogenband (48.86), American Jason Lezak (48.93) and Alexander Popov (48.94) — all dipped under the 49-second mark with Ian Thorpe (49.17) and Russian Andrei Kapralov (49.21).

It was tough to qualify, with the cut for the semis at 49.87. French sprint sensation Fred Bousquet (with his 47.03 relay split on Day One), made it through in 49.67, as did American Scott Tucker (49.59) but ’01 silver medalist Lars Frolander missed out (50.14)

Ever the perfectionist, Alex Popov, the 31-year-old Czar of sprint freestyle, said after his heat he was not happy with his swim. His coach, Gennadi Touretski, told SwimInfo that he felt Popov’s stroke was technically the best it has ever been, it was just up to the four-time Olympic gold medalist to "find the fire" to perform to his best.

Women’s 50 backstroke
The top three qualifiers went under 29-seconds: Ilona Hlavackova from the Czech Republic (PR 28.67), Nina Zhivanevskaya from Spain (28.85) and Noriko Inada from Japan (PR 28.88).

American Haley Cope, the title-holder was through in 29.17, but the championship record-holder, Natalie Coughlin, did not start. German world record-holder Sandra Volker will be there tonight (29.02) but team-mate Antje Buschschulte, winner of the 100m back last night, has skipped this race to concentrate on the 100m freestyle which starts tomorrow.

Alex Popov interviewed at Worlds 2003

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