By John Lohn and Phil Whitten
MONTREAL, Canada, July 25. THE evening session of Day Two features a quartet of championship finals, two each for the men and women. Here is a look at the schedule.
Men’s 50 Butterfly (JL)
A two-man battle has emerged between South Africa’s Roland Schoeman and the United States’ Ian Crocker. Schoeman blasted a 23.01 mark in the semifinals, well under the former world record of 23.30, set last year by Crocker. The American, however, is far from out of contention, as he registered a 23.32 swim in his semifinal race.
More experienced in the 50-meter races, partially due to his participation in World Cup action, Schoeman has a slight edge in the tactical department. But, Crocker is pure speed and certainly possess the ability to crack the 23-second barrier in the event. Look for the two men to be neck-and-neck to the wall, with the slightest fraction separating their swims.
The fight for bronze is fairly open, with the Ukraine’s Sergiy Breus (23.53), Brazil’s Fernando Scherer (23.55) and South Africa’s Ryk Neethling (23.62) all within a fingernail of each other. Croatia’s Duje Draganja enters the final in sixth, but is capable of improving on his semifinal time of 23.71. The field is rounded out by Russia’s Evgeni Korotyshkin (23.82) and Canada’s Mike Mintenko (23.85).
Men’s 100 Breaststroke (JL)
The race of the night is right here: Brendan Hansen vs. Kosuke Kitajima. The fastest breaststrokers in history and owners of seven of the nine fastest times ever produced, Hansen and Kitajima qualified first and second with semifinal wins. Hansen clocked 59.75 while Kitajima checked in at 59.78. In the morning prelims, Hansen went 59.84 to the 59.71 of his Japanese rival.
At last summer’s Olympic Games, Kitajima edged Hansen for the gold medal in the 100 breast, as he was buoyed by a dolphin kick off the start and turn. Hansen is searching for some redemption. It can be suggested that the winner of this event be considered the greatest breaststroker to ever climb atop the starting blocks.
While Hansen and Kitajima battle for gold, the Ukraine’s Oleg Lisogor and France’s Hugues Duboscq are the primary challengers for the bronze medal. Lisogor blitzed a 1:00.06 swim in the semifinals and Duboscq, the Olympic bronze medalist, fired a 1:00.11 effort. There is a dropoff to the fifth slot in the final, occupied by Great Britain’s Chris Cook at 1:00.64.
Slovenia’s Emil Tahirovic secured the sixth seed for the championship race, going 1:00.84. He is followed in the seventh position by Norway’s Alexander Dale Oen (1:01.28) and in the eighth spot by Russia’s Dimitri Komornikov (1:01.30).
Women’s 100 Butterfly (PW)
In our pre-meet picks, we tabbed Australia's Jessica Schipper as the woman to beat in the 100 fly. Heading into the final, we see no reason to change that forecast. Schipper, who had the top time in both the prelims and semifinals, was the only woman under 58 seconds in the semis, touching at 57.75.
The battle for second should be a close one, with all seven remaining finalists having a legitimate shot. Sprinter Lisbeth Lenton, the No. 2 qualifier, is looking to complete an Aussie sweep, but standing in her way will be Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak, world record-holder at 200 meters. Holland's Inge Dekker heads the second tier of challengers that includes the U.S. duo of Mary DeScenza and Rachel Komisarz. Don't count out Slovakia's veteran Martina Moravcova, who swam a 58-low a few weeks ago in the midst of her taper.
Women's 200 individual medley (PW)
At the Olympics last year, 15 year-old Katie Hoff was a study in talent, stroke virtuosity…and inexperience. Lots of promise but no medals. What a difference a year makes. Now 16, poised and with some valuable international experience under her belt, Hoff is about to offer Exhibit A in her quest to become the world's greatest all-around woman swimmer.
Hoff breezed through the first two rounds of the 200 I.M., clocking 2:12 in prelims and 2:11.71 in yesterday's semis, easily the top time. If all goes according to plan, Hoff should take command of tonight's final on the first lap and win going away. There is no doubt she can do it. The biggest question is whether or not she can swim fast enough to erase the shameful "world record" still attributed to China's Wu Yanyan. Wu was banned for four years after testing positive for steroids but, inexplicably, her "record" was allowed to stand.
The other seven swimmers will be battling for silver tonight, with Australia's Lara Carroll and Brooke Hanson hoping to take the two minor medals. They will be challenged by Polish 17-year-old Katarzyna Baranowska and the fast-improving American, Whitney Myers. Only six-tenths of a second separate No. 2 qualifier Kirsty Coventry (2:13.40) from No. 6, Myers.