By Stephen J. Thomas
BARCELONA, July 26. I doubt there were many of the record 12,000 odd crowd at the Palau Sant Jordi tonight who would have believed that American Ian Crocker could beat his much lauded teammate Michael Phelps in the 100 fly final tonight. Except for Ian Crocker, that is.
After creating history last night by breaking two world records in two individual events including the 100 fly, the result tonight was all the more amazing.
Crocker was in good form, having set a new PR of 52.12 in the semis and having taken silver in the one-lap race. But Phelps had gone 51.47 to move the WR to a new zone. Or so we thought.
Men's 100m butterfly
This was the fastest race in history and Crocker used his amazing early speed to pull the field with him. He flew down the first lap, turning in 23.99 (-1.12 seconds under Phelps' WR split) but incredibly, the entire field was also under the world record pace and Phelps was back in seventh place.
Crocker powered back down the pool with a clear lead and was not going to be caught. Sure, he tired under the flags and Phelps was making up ground with every stroke, but Crocker had enough gas to touch the wall in 50.98, 0.49 seconds under the previous mark and a huge 1.14 seconds off his PR from last night.
Crocker had pulled off one of the great shock results in swimming history. Phelps finished with the silver in 51.10 — also 0.37 under his old record — and Ukrainian Andrii Serdinov took bronze in 51.59 – the fourth fastest swim in history.
Russian Igor Marchenko clocked 51.95 for fourth with German Thomas Rupprath fifth in 51.98. Japan's Takashi Yamamoto set a national and Asian record in his sixth place 52.27 (9th all-time performer).
Crocker said after his race, “I've been wanting to swim under 52 seconds for a long time but I guess I skipped it and went to sub 51 seconds. I'll take that, it's like a dream.”?
The beaten Phelps said: “That was final, it's probably the best heat I've ever swum in. The race was fantastic. I though Ian's swim was perfect.”
As an aside to this result, does this mean that USA will leave Michael Phelps out of the medley relay team tomorrow night, could you have believed that could happen? Crocker picked up Olympic gold in 2000 in this event.
Men's 50m freestyle
The majestic Russian Alexander Popov won his second one-lap sprint, nine years after his first win in Rome, breaking his own championship record in 21.92.
In Rome his winning time was 22.17 so the man gets better with age. Popov's winning time was the 10th fastest swim in history; he holds four of the ten best all-time.
It was a night for the older guys with 33-year-old British sprinter Mark Foster taking silver in 22.20 starting from out in lane one, with youngster 25-year-old Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband snatching bronze by just 0.01 seconds in 22.29 from countryman Johan Kenkhuis.
Hoogie said after the race, “This is a delightful moment for me. My good friend Popov got the gold, and another mate Mark Foster the silver, so we'll be a happy trio on the podium.”
For Mark Foster this was solid vindication of his ability as he had been under fire for some time from British head coach Bill Sweetenham, who disliked Foster's independent training philosophy. Sweetenham had publicly threatened not to allow Foster to compete in Athens if he did not win a medal in this event. Perhap this was a cleaver ploy by the former Australian coach.
Before this meet started, Popov's coach of over a decade, Gennadi Touretski, said he felt that Popov's stroke was technically the best it had ever been in his illustrious career all he needed to do was to
“find the fire to win”?.
With three gold medals thus far and possibly another tomorrow with the medley relay, it appears he found the fire.
Jason Lezak, America's big hope in this race, was disappointing, finishing in last place in 22.44, well outside his PR 22.00.
Women's 50m butterfly
Dutch title-holder Inky De Bruijn won her second consecutive world championship gold in this event when she lowered her Chamapionship record (CR) by 0.06 seconds to clock 25.84, the sixth fastest swim all-time.
Inky owns seven of the top ten fastest swims all-time.
American legend Jenny Thompson came home faster than she has ever swum before to clock an American record 26.00 to take the silver. The 30-year-old JT became the third fastest all-time performer all-time and seventh fastest swim all-time.
World record-holder Anna-Karin Kammerling took the bronze in 26.06 (9th fastest swim all-time).
Women's 800m freestyle
This was a classic distance freestyle battle between German Hannah Stockbauer and American Diana Munz, and the huge crowd got very involved in the struggle . The two-horse race began to emerge at the 250-mark with the American just 0.04 seconds in front, but by the halfway mark Stockbauer had moved just 0.22 in front of Munz.
At the 550m flip, both swimmers clocked the same time (5:48.41), and remarkably, the swimmers were still dead level at the 600m.
At the 700m it was Munz who made the first move. With a lead of only 0.07, she built this to 0.54 at the final turn but the dynamic German had something in reserve, powering past the American to pick up almost a full second in the final 50 meters to win in a CR 8:23.66. Munz took the silver in a PR 8:24 (0.53 behind).
The battle for the bronze was also a real struggle between Britain's Rebecca Cooke and Canada's 15-year-old rising star Brittany Reimers, with the lead changing several times. It was the 20-year-old Cooke who got there first for bronze in a PR 8:28.45, Reimers clocked a very creditable NR 8:28.73.
Women's 200m backstroke
Seventeen year-old Russian Stanislava Komarova looked the pre-race favorite in this race, having swum a PR 2:09.39 to be fastest qualifier. However, Great Britain's Katy Sexton has been just a little faster this year with a 2:09.27.
The young Russian looked comfortable at the second turn, leading from Ukrainian Iryna Amshennikova with Sexton third; American hope Margaret Hoelzer was back in fifth.
At the third turn Komarova still had her head in front, but it was Hoelzer moving up to second place (just 0.07 seconds behind), the Ukrainian third and Sexton next.
As is often the case, the main action happens in the last fifty. Komorova was struggling and Sexton was powering home as Hoelzer also moved past the Russian. At the wall Sexton touched first, giving Great Britain its first women's gold in a NR 2:08.74 (7th all-time performer). Hoelzer took the silver in a PR 2:09.24 with Komarova holding on for the bronze in a disappointing 2:10.17.
Women's 400m medley relay
The Americans and Chinese were the fastest qualifiers with the Aussies and Germany likely to fight for the bronze.
The American decided to include a marginal Natalie Coughlin (the current backstroke WR-holder) who had been affected by a virus all week. In hindsight this was probably a bad move.
Coughlin led-off in a slow 1:02.26 (she holds the best backstroke relay split 59.58) leaving the USA in sixth spot.
Then China's Luo clocked the fastest all-time breaststroke leg, 1:05.79 to Amanda Beard's 1:06.87 – and the USA was in fourth spot. Then the amazing Jenny Thompson splashed a 57.40 (5th all-time) fly to get past the Aussies, but China was still leading with Lindsey Benko to swim the final leg for USA.
Benko did a good job, clocking 54.30, but China's Yang Yu went 53.71 (9th fastest). Aussie Jodie Henry swam 54.14 to get past Germany's Sandra Volker to take the bronze. China finished with a CR 3:59.89 to USA's 4:00.83 with the Australian's 4:01.37.
Men's 50m backstroke
German Thomas Rupprath's broke his own CR by 0.12 seconds to clock 25.07, just 0.08 off Lenny Krazelberg's WR. His teammate, Steffen Driesen, was equal next best with the surprise packet tonight, 19-year-old South African Johannes Zandberg in 25.38 (8th fastest all-time.
Dual gold medalist Aaron Peirsol (25.47) and teammate Randall Bal (25.51), the title holder in this event also qualified as did Aussies Matthew Welsh (25.52) and Josh Watson (25.50). Russian rising star Arkady Vyatchanin missed the cut.
Women's 50m freestyle
World record-holder Inky de Bruijn was the only woman under 25-seconds, clocking a very swift 24.75. Aussie Libby Lenton (25.08) and Alice Mills (PR 25.14) made it through, as did American Jenny Thompson in a busy night for her (25.09).
Holland's Marleen Veldhuis (25.27), German Sandra Volker (25.34) and Martina Moravcova (25.35) will be there tomorrow.
There were a few surprise omissions. Alison Sheppard of Great Britain was fastest qualifier in the heats but missed the cut. So too did Fukuoka silver medalist, Swede Therese Alshammar, and Finn Hanna-Maria Seppala, the gold medalist in the 100 free.
American Hayley Cope also missed out.
Women's 50m breaststroke:
Chinese title-holder Luo Xuejuan splashed a CR 30.64 to break her own mark from Fukuoka. Aussie Brooke Hanson broke her national record for the second time today (NR 31.11) and teammate Leisel Jones (PR 31.23) was also very swift. British world record-holder Zoe Baker clocked 31.29, slower that her morning swim of 31.10.
The American pair of Kristy Kowal (31.79) and Tara Kirk (31.40) will also race tomorrow night, as will German Sarah Poewe (31.94) and Russian Elena Bogomazova (31.99).
Swede Emma Egelstrom (32.02) missed the cut.