Olympics, Swimming: Club 52 Grows to Four, Hayden Stoeckel Wins Semifinal Round of 100 Back

By John Lohn

BEIJING, China, August 11. TRY this on for size. It likely will take a sub-53 performance to win a medal in the men's 100 backstroke. Four years after Aaron Peirsol won the event in Athens with a 54-low showing, the event has taken off to new heights. Heck, a guy (Nick Thoman) not even here has gone 52-point.

Gaining their slots in the final of the 100 back, Australia's Hayden Stoeckel and American Matt Grevers each went under 53 seconds during the semifinals, Stoeckel swimming 52.97 and Grevers checking in at 52.99. Yet, neither will be the favorite when the entrants are announced for the final of the event. That role still belongs to Peirsol.

While Stoeckel and Grevers pushed the pace, Peirsol settled into his race and utilized a strategy similar to the one that he went with at the U.S. Trials. In Omaha, Peirsol cruised in the opening two rounds, then dropped the hammer with a 52.89 clocking in the final. Expect the defending Olympic champ to come through again tomorrow. Peirsol enters the final seeded fifth in 53.56.

Following Stoeckel and Grevers were Russian Arkady Vyatchanin (53.06) and Spain's Aschwin Wildeboer (53.51). Vyatchanin's time was a European record. Sixth went to Liam Tancock of Great Britain in 53.61 and seventh and eighth were slotted by Japan's Junichi Miyashita (53.69) and Aussie Ashley Delaney (53.76).