Olympic Day 4 Finals

By Phillip Whitten & Michael Collins

SYDNEY, Sept. 19. It's the half-way point of the swimming portion of the Olympics. Excitement is still at a fever pitch and every event seems to be a new world or Olympic record, produce a surprise winner, or hold a special story. Tonight's competition at the Olympic Aquatic Centre in Homebush saw two world and four Olympic records.

Here's our event play-by-play:

Men's 100 Free semi-finals

Top 8 advance to finals:

1. Hoogenband NED 47.84 WORLD RECORD
2. Klim AUS 48.80
3. Popov RUS 48.84
4. Frolander SWE 48.93
5. Walker USA 49.04
6. Hall Jr. USA 49.13
7. Pimankov RUS 49.43
8. Fydler AUS 49.55

Holland's Pieter van den Hoogenband is on a roll. In the semifinals of the men's 100 meter freestyle, he became the first man ever to swim below 48 seconds, swimming an amazing 47.84. And when he emerged from the pool, he didn't even seem to be breathing hard! That's two world records in two days.

He took down Australia's Thorpedo yesterday. Will tomorrow see him beat Alex Popov, the Russian Rocket? Australia's Michael Klim, who held the world record since Saturday (48.18), qualified second in 48.80, Alex Popov was third (48.84), Swede Lars Frolander fourth in 48.93, and then the two Americans. Walker had a slightly faster time than Gary Hall Jr., 49.04 to 49.13. It took a 49.55 just to get a third swim.

Women's 200 Free final

Gold – O'Neill AUS 1:58.24
Silver – Moravcova SVK 1:58.32
Bronze – Poll CRC 1:58.81

4. Tchemezova RUS 1:58.86
4. Kielgass GER 1:58.86
6. Baranovskaya BLR 1:59.28
7. Potec ROM 1:59.46
8. Wang CHN 1:59.55

Susie O'Neill sent the crowd crazy again. "Susie, Susie, Susie,, they chanted after her 200 meter freestyle victory.

It was a strategic race, one in which all eight finalists were in contention until the very end. Martina Moravcova jumped out to a small lead at the 50, but by 75 meters O"Neill had the lead. She turned in 57.68, under Olympic record pace with Moravcova second (57.85) and defending champion, Claudia Poll, of Costa Rica, third (58.24). The top three swimmers maintained their places throughout the final 100 meters, though O'Neill lengthened her lead on the third 50 and Moravcova fell just a hair shy of reeling the Aussie in on the final lap. At the end it was O'Neill the victor by eight-hundredths of a second.

The gold medal was Australia's first since the first day of competition. Moravcova earned her second silver medal of the Games, while Poll won her second bronze in Sydney. Germany's Kerstin Kielgass, 31, who tied Russia's Nadejda Tchemezova for fourth (1:58.86), recorded a lifetime best.

Men's 200 Fly

Gold – Malchow USA 1:55.35 Olympic Record
Silver – Sylantiev UKR 1:55.76
Bronze – Norris AUS 1:56.17 Australian record

4. Poliakov RUS 1:56.34
5. Phelps USA 1:56.50 (US national age group record for boys 15-16)
6. Parry GBR 1:57.01
7. Pankratov RUS 1:57.97
8. Esposito FRA 1:58.39

America's Tom Malchow brought home another gold for the USA, winning the 200 fly in 1:55.35 for a new Olympic record and just missing his own world mark of 1:55.18. In a field that boasted six of the top ten performers of all time, Malchow didn't take the lead until the final lap and had to hold off fast-finishing Denis Sylantiev, of Ukraine (1:55.76), and a gutsy performance by Australia's Justin Norris who kept Australia on the medal podium with a bronze (1:56.17).

Fifteen year-old American, Michael Phelps, continued to improve by dropping another half second off his personal best (1:56.50), but it just wasn't quite enough to medal. You can bet we will see him again in four years–and lots of times between now and Athens.

Britain's Steve Parry finished sixth (1:57.01). Russia's Denis Pankratov, the former world record-holder who was out under world record pace at the 100 (54.74) faded to seventh (1:57.97). France's Franck Esposito, highly touted s a potential medalist, was a disappointing eighth (1:58.39).

Women's 200 IM – final

Gold – Klochkova UKR 2:10.68 Olympic Record
Silver – Caslaru ROM 2:12.57
Bronze – Teuscher USA 2:13.32

4. Limpert CAN 2:13.44
5. Malar CAN 2:13.70
6. Verevka RUS 2:13.88
7. Rose USA 2:14.82
8. Hagiwara JPN 2:15.64

Yana Klochkova, the pride of Ukraine and a triple European champion this year, notched another Olympic record in winning the 200 IM by a comfortable margin. Her 2:10.68 set a new Olympic record and makes her the second fastest performer in history, trailing only China's Wu Yanyan, who tested positive for steroids earlier this year and was banned for four years.

Klochkova led from start to finish, leading by two seconds at the 100 and winning by almost the same margin. Romania's Beatrice Coada-Caslaru had a strong back-half to take the silver, and USA's Teuscher just out-touched Canada's Limpert for the bronze.

Men's 200 Breast semi-final

Top 8 advance to finals:

1. Fioravanti ITA 2:12.37 Italian Record
2. Rummolo ITA 2:13.23
3. Salyards USA 2:13.38
4. Malek CZE 2:13.46
5. Bernard FRA 2:13.48
6. Parkin RSA 2:13.57
7. Harrison AUS 2:13.75
8. Mitchell AUS 2:13.87

The red-hot Italians went one-two in qualifying for the men's 200 meter breaststroke final. Domenico Fioravanti qualified first in 2:12.37, with Davide Rummolo, the top prelims swimmer, seeded second .

What a difference having one swim under your belt makes! Kyle Salyards, the only American left, had a great semi-final swim after qualifying 14th in prelims. He won the first heat from lane 1 in 2:13.38 to qualify third. Australia put two swimmers in the final with Harrison and Mitchell finishing seventh and eighth.

Notable nonqualifiers included Hungary's Norbert Rozsa, the 1996 gold medalist and '92 silver medalist, who placed 13th; Canada's Morgan Knabe, who had the fastest 100 split (1:03.86), but faded badly in the final 50 meters to finish tenth; and Russia's Dmitri Komornikov, considered by some to have the inside track to the gold medal here in Sydney, but who could manage only a ninth place effort this evening.

Women's 200 Fly semi-final

Top 8 advance to finals:

1. O'Neill AUS 2:07.57
2. Thomas AUS 2:07.63
3. Jedrzejczak POL 2:07.81 Polish record
4. Hyman USA 2:07.96
5. Jacobsen DEN 2:08.11 Danish record
6. Sandeno USA 2:09.40
7. Mita JPN 2:09.88
8. Nakanishi JPN 2:09.89

Still wet from her gold medal swim in the 200 free only an hour earlier, Australia's Susie O'Neill still turned in the fastest 200 meter fly semi-final, out-reaching her countrywoman, Petria Thomas, who swam stroke-for-stroke with the world record-holder for all 200 meters. At the wall it was O'Neill ahead by a mere six-hundredths.

Misty Hyman, of the USA, finished second in her heat (2:07.96) behind Poland's 16 year-old Otylia Jedrzejczak (2:07.81) and will go into the finals seeded fourth. In two swims today she recorded her all-time two best times and should be ready for a medal-winning performance tomorrow night. O'Neill should be considered the favorite to repeat as Olympic champion, but Thomas, Hyman, Jedrzejczak (eventually we'll learn to spell her name without looking it up) and Jacobsen the likely contenders for silver and bronze.

Kaitlin Sandeno, the second American, moved up a spot to qualify sixth, swimming a lifetime best 2:09.40. Sandeno doesn't quite have the speed of the other women, but if she can hang tough in the first 100, she just may haul herself onto the medal podium.

Men's 4 x 200 Free Relay

Gold – Australia 7:07.05 World Record
Silver – United States 7:12.64
Bronze – Netherlands 7:12.70

4. Italy 7:12.91
5. Great Britain 7:12.98
6. Germany 7:20.19
Canada 7:21.92
8. Russia 7:24.37

This one was already in the bag–the surest thing in a meet in which Mr. Sure Thing, himself, Ian Thorpe, found himself accepting a silver medal. The only good thing about this race for the rest of the world is that Olympic rules do not allow a country to field two relays. Otherwise, there might have been eight Aussies on the victory stand, rather than just four.

The Aussie relay squad was notable as much for who wasn't on the team as for who was. Missing in action were Grant Hackett, former world record-holder in the 200 free, and Daniel Kowalski, 1996 Olympic silver medalist in the same event.

Australia led off with Ian Thorpe (1:46.03). As the sell-out crowd roared it's approval, the Aussies followed with Michael Klim (1:46.40), Todd Pearson (1:47.36), and William Kirby (1:47.26). That's a combo that's hard to beat. In fact, it's impossible to beat. Those splits add up to 7:07.05–a new world record.

As anticipated, there was a dog fight for second among the USA, Italy, the Netherlands and Great Britain. Scott Goldblatt led off for the USA in 1:49.66. Josh Davis was next with a superb 1:46.49, followed by Jamie Roush (1:48.74), and Klete Keller (1:47.75). Keller, an 18 year-old with the cools and the cajones of a grizzled veteran, fell behind both Italy and Holland with 25 meters to go, then dug deep down to pull out the silver, out-reaching Mssrs. van den Hoogenband and Rosolino. Mark our words: this is a kid with a great future!

Hoogie anchored for the Netherlands in 1:44.88, the fastest split of all time, while Rosolino anchored in 1:45.91 for Italy. At the wall it was the USA just six-hundredths ahead of the Dutch, with Italy 21-hundredths back and Britain another seven-hundredths in arrears.

The Brits recorded two very fast splits, by Paul Palmer (1:47.15) and James Salter (1:47.37).