Hackett, Vendt Duel in 1500 Free at Mare Nostrum Meet

BARCELONA, Spain, June 14. THE highlight event of the second day of the Barcelona stop on the Mare Nostrum Tour turned out to be the longest discipline. Australia's Grant Hackett and American Erik Vendt battled it out for the 30 laps, with both men turning in superb times for this point in the season in the 1500 freestyle. Hackett came out on top in 15:00.58 with Vendt not far behind in 15:01.54.

By nearly cracking the 15-minute barrier in the middle of training, Hackett showed he's on the rebound from a disappointing World Championships in Melbourne. The Aussie, of course, is chasing a third consecutive Olympic title in the metric mile. As for Vendt, the Club Wolverine star has to be elated with his effort with Beijing just more than a year away.

The world-record holder in the 100 backstroke, Natalie Coughlin won her pet event in 1:01.32, faster than the 1:01.49 registered by Japan's Hanae Ito. For the men, Japan's Tomomi Morita supplied a solid performance of 54.70. Meanwhile, Tara Kirk turned in another superb showing in a breaststroke race, winning the 100 distance in 1:07.37. It's the second time in a week that Kirk has been below 1:08 in Mare Nostrum action.

Through two legs of the European series, Japan's Kosuke Kitajima is 4-for-4 in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. After sweeping the events in Canet, France, Kitajima completed his sweep in Barcelona by winning the 100 distance in 1:00.96. The second-place finisher was Australian Brenton Rickard, who checked in at 1:01.31.

The winner of the 200 butterfly on Wednesday night, Australian Felicity Galvez added the 100 fly crown to her stash, thanks to a time of 58.96. She was followed into the wall by the United States' Kim Vandenberg, who went 59.73. On the men's side, Aussie Andrew Lauterstein was the top finisher with a mark of 52.53, ahead of the 52.93 of Ryan Pini (Papua New Guinea).

In 100 freestyle action, Australia's Jodie Henry (54.90) and France's Alain Bernard (49.04) were victorious. Meanwhile, Great Britain's Hannah Miley (4:39.91) and Italy's Leonardo Tumiotto (4:24.12) were the winners of the 400 individual medley events. The women's 400 freestyle went to Aussie Bronte Barratt (4:10.18), ahead of countrywoman Linda Mackenzie (4:10.73).

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