Olympics, Swimming: Alexander Dale Oen Sets Olympic Record to Lead 100 Breast Prelims

By John Lohn

BEIJING, China, August 9. HE had a breakthrough swim earlier this year when he cracked the minute mark for the first time in his career. Call his opening swim of the Olympics another big step. Clocking an Olympic and European-record time of 59.41, Norway's Alexander Dale Oen led the way in the men's 100 breaststroke qualifying.

The Norwegian split 27.95 for his first 50 meters and remained strong through the second lap to register the fastest time of the prelim session. Defending Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan was second, thanks to a mark of 59.52. Five men broke the one-minute barrier, something never before accomplished in Olympic competition.

The silver medalist at the 2004 Games in Athens and the world-record holder, American Brendan Hansen tied for 10th in 1:00.36, sharing that spot with Australia's Christian Sprenger. After the race, Hansen indicated that he held back, not wanting to reveal his hand too early. For the semifinals, Hansen said, a faster time would be produced.

Frenchman Hugues Duboscq, the bronze medalist in Athens, was third in 59.67 and was followed in the fourth and fifth positions by Australia's Brenton Rickard (59.89) and South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh (59.96). Sixth went to Lithuania's Giedrius Titenis (1:00.11) and seventh was occupied by Russia's Roman Sludnov (1:00.20), the first man to break a minute.

The Ukraine's Igor Borysik (1:00.31) and Slovenia's Damir Dugonjic (1:00.35) were eighth and ninth, followed by Hansen and Sprenger. The semifinals will also feature the Ukraine's Oleg Lisogor (1:00.65), Japan's Yuta Suenaga (1:00.67), Bulgaria's Mike Alexandrov (1:00.69), Great Britain's Chris Cook (1:00.70) and the United States' Mark Gangloff (1:00.71).