Olympics, Swimming: Flash Federica Pellegrini Downs World Record in 200 Free Prelims

By John Lohn

BEIJING, China, August 11. EVIDENTLY, Federica Pellegrini is ticked off. Roughly eight hours after she finished fifth in the 400 freestyle, an event in which she holds the world record, the Italian roared to a global standard in the preliminary heats of the 200 free. Making a statement from the start, Pellegrini clocked 1:55.45 to erase the former mark of 1:55.55, held by Laure Manaudou.

During the 400 free final, Pellegrini went out too slow and paid the price as she allowed Great Britain's Rebecca Adlington to hang around and forge ahead at the finish, where she nipped Katie Hoff. For her 200 free debut, Pellegrini wasn't messing around. Maybe it's the confidence boost she needs to erase the disappointment of the 400 free.

The prelims were quick as a whole as the Olympic record was set three times during the evening session, a far different scenario from four years ago when the 200 free was among the weakest events on the female program. Slovenia's Sara Isakovic was second-swiftest into the semifinals, clocking a time of 1:55.86. She was followed in third by Great Britain's Caitlin McClatchey (1:56.97).

Racing in Pellegrini's heat, American Katie Hoff and Hungarian Agnes Mutina qualified fourth and fifth, with respective times of 1:57.20 and 1:57.25. Hoff has already won a pair of medals at these Games, finishing third in the 400 individual medley and second in the 400 freestyle. Hoff's 200 free was the first of two prelims on the night as she was also scheduled to contest the 200 IM.

China's Pang Jiaying got the record-breaking started in the fourth of the six heats. Pang produced a time of 1:57.37, good for sixth overall. Seventh went to U.S. teenager Allison Schmitt (1:57.38) and eighth went to Japan's Haruka Ueda (1:57.64). Romania's Camelia Potec, the defending champ, was ninth in 1:57.65.

The rest of the semifinal field will include Aussie Bronte Barratt (1:57.75), France's Ophelie-Cyrielle Etienne (1:57.93), Aussie Linda Mackenzie (1:57.96), Sweden's Josefin Lillhage (1:57.98), Great Britain's Jo Jackson (1:58.00), France's Aurore Mongel (1:58.11) and Sweden's Ida Marko-Varga (1:58.21).