World Champs, Day 5 Premims: Phelps, Peirsol Lead Qualifying, Coughlin Fails to Qualify in 100 Free

BARCELONA, July 24. A struggling Natalie Coughlin failed to get past the preliminary round of the 100 free this morning, clocking 56.98, good enough only for 31st place.

Coughlin started to feel ill the night before competition started and has had a fever on and off since then. Antibiotics have not worked for her, so US officials believe she has a viral infection. As a result of her illness, she will not compete in the 400 medley relay.

Coughlin's inability to swim anywhere near her ability is a huge loss to the American women’s team, but the swimmer, herself, is looking at the positive: that it is better that this setback occurred now, rather than at the Olympics next year.

Women’s 100 freestyle
Number one-ranked Hanna-Maria Seppala of Finland was the fastest qualifier in a quick 54.82, but American legend Jenny Thompson was just 0.01 seconds behind in her best this year 54.83. They were the only two swimmers under 55 seconds.

Then followed Holland’s Veldhuis (55.17), Slovakia’s Moravcova (55.19), Aussies Henry (55.37) and Lenton (55.44), China’s Yang Yu (55.72) and world number two, Elena Popchenko from Belarus (55.82).

Men’s 200 IM
World record-holder Michael Phelps clocked the 10th fast swim all-time and certainly the fastest heat swim in 1:59.71. Chances are he will blast another world mark before this meet is out.

Much of the talk leading into this meet centered on how well triple freestyle world record-holder Ian Thorpe would fare in this less familiar event against the world’s best. Fortunately for all interested parties — and there are many — Thorpe made the second round. But just barely. The 20-year-old Aussie scraped in in a tie for 14th place, clocking 2:02.54 in what Aussie partisans hope was a relaxed swim.

Trinidad and Tobago’s George Bovell, an Auburn sophomore-to-be and the fourth place finisher two years ago in Fukuoka, qualified second in a PR 2:00.94 (21st all-time performer). Olympic gold medalist, Italian Massi Rosolino, was third best in 2:01.24 ahead of American Kevin Clements (2:01.43).

Men’s 200 backstroke
American world record-holder Aaron Peirsol (1:57.28) was almost a full second ahead of archrival Aussie Matt Welsh (1:58.26), with brilliant young Russian Arkady Vyatchanin in 1:59.18. Welsh and Vyatchanin tied for the silver behind Peirsol in the two-lap race.

American Bryce Hunt also made the cut in 1:59.71 just 0.10 seconds outside his PR from the Duel in the Pool in April. Canadian hope Keith Beavers (2:00.56) scraped through after falling well behind in the first half of the race.

Women’s 200 breaststroke
European champion, Austria’s Mirna Jukic, was fastest into the next round in 2:27.91, American Amanda Beard was next in 2:27.95, with world record-holder, China’s Qi Hui (2:28.74) and current title-holder, Hungary’s Agnes Kovacs (2:29.74), also in the mix.

Aussie two-lap world record-holder, Leisel Jones (2:28.79) and America’s Kristy Kowal (2:30.41) are also into the evening session.

Women's 800 free relay
The USA qualified first in the 4x200m free relay, more than two seconds ahead of China. The US squad of Rhi Jeffrey (2:00.66), Rachael Komisarz (1:59.82), Gabrielle Rose (2:01.98) and Margaret Hoelzer (2:00.18) touched first in 8:02.64. China clocked 8:04.97 while Spain was a big surprise as the third qualifier in 8:05.52.

Britain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Australia and Canada round out the contestants for the final. Missing the cut were Germany, Russia and Italy.

There were no lead-off swims under two minutes and only three sub-two splits: Sweden's Josefin Lillhage (1:59.80), Komisarz (1:59.82) and Britain's Karen Legg (1:59.94).

Men's 800 freestyle
Australia's Grant Hackett, the overwhelming favorite, cruised a 7:55.15 to lead all qualifiers in the men's 800. Four swimmers clocked sub-8 minute efforts: Hackett, Britain's Graeme Smith (7:58.66), the USA's Larsen Jensen (7:59.18) and Canada's Kurtis MacGillivary (7:59.58). It took 8:04.74 or better to make finals.

The field was weakened with the pre-Championship decision by Russia's Yuri Prilukov to pass on the 800 and concentrate on the 1500. Prilukov, 19, set a European record of 7:49+ in the 800 earlier this month and would have been seeded #2.

The USA's Chad Carvin was one of three likely finalists who failed to make the cut. Carvin was 12th in 8:08.48. Australia's Steve Penfold was ninth in 8:06.48 while Israel's Shilo Ayalon was tenth in 8:07.85.

Among the potential finalists who scratched were Prilukov, Italy's Emiliano Brembilla and Britain's David Davies.

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