By John Lohn
MONTREAL, Canada, July 28. THE fifth morning of swimming at the World Championships was busy, as four individual races and a relay were contested. Preliminaries were held in the women’s 100 freestyle, men’s 200 backstroke, women’s 200 breaststroke and the men’s 200 breaststroke. Qualifying heats were also held in the women’s 800 freestyle relay. Here’s what the morning looked like.
Women’s 100 Freestyle
Currently in a transitional phase in her life, Amanda Weir hardly appears bothered. After turning in a strong split during the United States’ bronze-medal showing in the 400 freestyle relay earlier in the week, Weir produced the fastest qualifying time Thursday morning in the 100 free, as she was clocked in 54.49. A member of Georgia’s NCAA championship squad during the spring, Weir recently decided to transfer to another school.
The only swimmer to break 54.50 during the morning session, Weir was followed in qualifying by the Netherlands’ Marleen Veldhuis. Upholding the sprint tradition of her country, Veldhuis turned in a mark of 54.82. The third and fourth-swiftest times from the prelims were notched by Australia’s Jodie Henry (55.04), the world-record holder, and France’s Malia Metella (55.11).
Sitting in fifth was Finland’s Hanna-Maria Seppala (55.25) and sixth was taken by Greece’s Nery-Mantey Niangkouara (55.36). Rounding out the top eight heading into evening semifinals were Italy’s Federica Pellegrini (55.40) and the United States’ Natalie Coughlin (55.45). Australia’s Alice Mills was ninth in 55.55.
Men’s 200 Backstroke
He might be able to win this event in his sleep. The two-time defending world champion and reigning Olympic titlist, Aaron Peirsol easily posted the fastest preliminary swim in the 200 backstroke, covering the distance in 1:58.04. Peirsol owns the world record at 1:54.74 and won the 100 back earlier in the meet by nearly half a second.
Swimming in the same heat as Peirsol, Croatia’s Gordan Kozulj advanced to the semifinals as the second seed, thanks to a time of 1:59.03. The third-quickest performance came from Markus Rogan, the Olympic silver medalist. A Stanford University product, Rogan emerged victorious in his heat with an effort of 1:59.33. He was followed in fourth by Japan’s Tomomi Morita (1:59.78).
Securing the fifth and sixth places for the nigh session were Romania’s Razvan Florea (1:59.88), the Olympic bronze medalist, and Japan’s Takashi Nakano (1:59.97). Slovenia’s Blaz Medvesek (2:00.11) and the United States’ Ryan Lochte (2:00.27) completed the top eight. Lochte cruised in his heat, saving energy for tonight’s semifinals of the distance dorsal and the final of the 200 individual medley.
Women’s 200 Breaststroke
After capturing gold in the 100 breast earlier this week, Australia’s Leisel Jones should be swimming in a relaxed manner. Now that she has her first major international title to her name, Jones qualified second for the semifinals of the 200 breast on Thursday morning. Jones, a former world-record holder in the event, comfortably moved through the water in 2:27.63.
Leading the way after the preliminary session was Germany’s Anne Poleska, who won her heat in 2:27.31. Following Jones in third place was Japan’s Megumi Taneda, who posted a time of 2:28.06. The fourth and fifth fastest times were collected by Poland’s Katarzyna Dulian (2:28.45) and Austria’s Mirna Jukic (2:28.47).
Advancing to the semifinals in the sixth through eighth positions were Italy’s Chiara Boggiatto (2:28.75), South Africa’s Suzaan Van Biljon (2:29.02) and Russia’s Ekaterina Kormatcheva (2:29.07). The United States’ Kristen Caverly and Tara Kirk also made the semifinals. Caverly was 10th in 2:30.03 while Kirk grabbed the last spot in 2:31.48.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke
By the time the championship final is held on Friday night, the 200 breaststroke figures to be a one-man show, dominated by American Brendan Hansen. The world-record holder at 2:09.04 for the 200 distance, Hansen is coming off a gold-medal showing in the 100 breast. In his prelim of the four-lap event, Hansen eased to a time of 2:12.74.
Kazakhstan’s Vladislav Polyakov, out of the University of Alabama, narrowly edged Hansen in the final heat, as Polyakov turned in a time of 2:12.73. That race also featured the third-fastest qualifying time, a 2:12.76 from Poland’s Slawomir Kuczko. Hansen, who won bronze in the 200 breast in Athens, is the only medal winner from the Olympics competing. Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima failed to qualify for the event and Hungary’s Dani Gyurta is bypassing the meet.
Canada’s Mike Brown thrilled the fans of his home nation by qualifying fourth for the semifinals in 2:12.96 and was followed in fifth and sixth, respectively, by Russia’s Grigory Falko (2:13.35) and Japan’s Genki Imamura (2:13.36). Italy’s Loris Facci was seventh in 2:13.46 and Australia’s Jim Piper was eighth in 2:13.47. American Scott Usher was ninth in 2:13.89.
Women’s 800 Freestyle Relay
The United States, which won the gold in Athens in world-record time, will take a run at the global standard in tonight’s final of the 800 free relay. During the morning session, the U.S. earned the fastest qualifying time by swimming a mark of 7:59.64. The American foursome consisted of Mary DeScenza (2:01.17), Caroline Burckle (2:00.09), Rachel Komisarz (1:59.50) and Kaitlin Sandeno (1:58.88).
During the championship final, the United States will likely go with a lineup featuring Natalie Coughlin, Whitney Myers, Katie Hoff and Sandeno. The Australians qualified second for the championship with the other time under eight minutes. The squad of Lisbeth Lenton, Millie Mitchell, Lara Davenport and Bronte Barratt went 7:59.77. Expect some lineup changes for the Aussies, too.
China (8:02.51) and Japan (8:04.72) picked up the third and fourth berths to the final and Great Britain went 8:05.01 to advance in fifth. The championship heat was completed by New Zealand (8:05.12), France (8:06.23) and Canada (8:07.88).