By Stephen J. Thomas
BARCELONA, July 25. FAST times continued to be the the order of the day in the morning heats on the sixth day of the World Championships in Barcelona, but the Czar of sprint freestyle, Alexander Popov, swam an effortless (if that's possible) championship record 21.98 in the 50m free to emphasize the point.
Michael Phelps made it known that the 100m fly record will be next on his list of achievements at this meet when he clocked 52.27 to qualify fastest, just ahead of teammate Ian Crocker (52.35).
Holland's Inky de Bruijn, was easily fastest qualifier in the 50 fly (26.33) from American Jenny Thompson (27.01) and Diana Munz was first into the final of the 800m freestyle tomorrow night in 8:32.44. Russian teen Stanislava Komarova was best in the 200m backstroke in 2:10.98.
Men's 100m butterfly
Americans Michael Phelps (52.27) and Ian Crocker (52.35) were best; Frenchman Franck Esposito (52.85) will be looking to make amends for his shocker in the four-lap race. German Thomas Rupparath (52.91), Japan's Takashi Yamamoto (52.91) and Canada's Mike Mintenko (52.92) were all under the 53-second mark. Olympic champion Lars Frolander did not make the cut.
Men's 50m freestyle
Alex Popov set a new championship record 21.98 breaking American Anthony Ervin's old mark of 22.05. As for Ervin, he missed the cut for the semis in 22.74, but then had a swim-off for a place as a reserve and clocked 22.45, which would have placed him fifth in the prelims.
Jason Lezak clocked 22.29 to qualify second, Dutch teammates Johan Kenkhuis (22.32) and Pieter van den Hoogenband (22.51) were prominent, as was Frenchman Julien Sicot (22.36), Slovakian Peter Mankoc (22.54) and Aussie Brett Hawke (22.54). South Africa's distance ace-turned-sprinter, Ryk Neethling, was eighth in 22.56 while Britain's Mark Foster, 33, the short course WR-holder, was tenth in 22.59.
Three of the world's biggest names in sprinting tied for 17th place, resulting in the swim-off: Ervin, South Africa's Roland Schoeman and Algeria's Salim Iles.
Several sprinters considered likely finalists did not make it into the second round: Defending champion Ervin, Schoeman, Iles, Poland's Bart Kizierowski, Italy's Lorenzo Vismara, Sweden's Stefan Nystrand, France's Fred Bousquet and Australia's Ashley Callus.
Women's 50m butterfly
Inge De Bruijn silenced critics who claimed she was out of shape by leading all qualifiers in the 50 fly by a wide margin. The only swimmer under 27 seconds, she clocked 26.33 — not far off her championship record of 25.90. Second, at 27.01, was American wonderwoman, Jenny Thompson. Swedish world record-holder glided to third in 27.16; her record is 25.57. Then came China's Zhou Yafei (27.33), Israel's Vered Borochovsky (27.37) with Holland's Chantal Groot and American Mary Descenza tied in 27.40. Belgium's Tine Bossuyt, at 27.46, was the eighth fastest qualifier.
Women's 800m freestyle
Bouncing back from her disappointing placing in the 1500, the USA's Diana Munz (8:32.44) was best, just in front of China's Chen Hua (8:32.74), Russia's Regina Sytch (8:32.86), Brit Rebecca Cooke (8:32.95) and dual gold medalist Hannah Stockbauer (8:32.98) close at hand. Teens Eva Ristov of Hungary and Brittany Reimer of Canada also will be there tomorrow night as will German veteran Jana Henke. This shapes up as a very close, exciting final.
Women's 200m backstroke
Russia's Stanislava Komarova, 17, was best at 2:10.98, then followed Ukrainian Iryna Amshennikova (2:11.93), also 17, American Margaret Hoelzer (2:12.35), Canada's Jennifer Fratesi (2:12.72), Japan's Aya Terakawa (2:12.79) and Brit Sarah Price (2:12.79). Britain's other dorsal specialist, Katy Sexton, also made it into the semis with a 2:13.32. Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry was the final qualifier at 2:14.92.
American record-holder Natalie Coughlin, the top-ranked swimmer in the world in this event last year, scratched due to ill health.