Russian National Championships: Anastasia Zueva, Andrey Grechin Speedy in 50-Meter Finals

MOSCOW, Russia, April 20. THE fourth day of competition at the Russian long course nationals, also serving as an Olympic team selection meet, featured more world-class swimming, as Anastasia Zueva posted another world-leading time, and Andrey Grechin nearly became the fastest man in the pool thus far in 2012.

After winning the 200 backstroke yesterday with a 2:06.59, Zueva used the non-Olympic 50 backstroke final today as preparation for the 100 backstroke later in the meet. Her winning time of 27.54 bumps American Rachel Bootsma off the top of the world rankings. Bootsma swam a 27.84 at the NCSA junior nationals last month. Zueva posted a 27.86 in semifinals earlier in the session.

Placing second in today's race was Margarita Nesterova with a 29.21, improving on her 29.57 from semifinals, and Daria Ustinova was third with a 29.32 after posting a 28.92 in semifinals.

Grechin won the 50 freestyle in 21.82, making him the second-fastest swimmer in the event this year, just behind James Magnussen's 21.74 from the Australian Olympic Trials and ahead of Cesar Cielo's 21.85 from last month's South American Games. The swim marks a lifetime best for Grechin, whose previous best was a 21.98 from the 2010 European championships. The time inches Grechin closer to the national record of 21.64 held by the legendary Alexander Popov since 2000, a time that was once the world record.

In a close race for the second spot on the Olympic team, Sergey Fesikov got his hand on the wall one hundredth of a second ahead of Vladimir Morozov, 22.05 to 22.06. The top three swimmers eclipsed the Olympic qualifying time of 22.11.

Grechin's time in finals matched the time he posted in semifinals earlier in tonight's session. Morozov and Oleg Tihobaev posted matching second-place times of 22.21, while Fesikov was fourth in semifinals with a 22.24.

OTHER FINALS
Women's 200 IM

Ekaterina Andreeva just missed the automatic Olympic qualifying standard of 2:13.36 in the final with a winning time of 2:13.80. Also just missing the cut was Daria Belyakin, who placed second with a 2:13.92. Yana Martynova, already qualified in the 400 IM, placed third with a 2:14.91.

Men's 200 backstroke
Arkady Vyatchanin, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist in the 200 back, won the event in an automatic Olympic qualifying time of 1:57.42, safely under the standard of 1:58.48. The time puts him seventh in the world. Anton Anchin will join Vyatchanin in the 200 back in London, placing second today with a 1:58.12. Placing third was Vitaly Borisov with a 2:00.55.

Women's 50 breaststroke
Yulia Efimova won the non-Olympic sprint breaststroke with a 30.15 after posting a 30.35 in semifinals earlier in the session. Daria Deev's second-place time of 31.50 improved on her semifinal time of 31.89, and Valentina Artemyev was third with a 31.78 after posting a 32.20 in semis.

SEMIFINALS
Men's 200 butterfly

Nikolay Skvortsov blazed through the 200 fly semifinals with a 1:56.97, just shy of the Olympic qualifying time of 1:56.86, but well ahead of Maxim Ganihin's second-place time of 1:59.51. Igor Ahlyustin qualified third for finals with a 2:00.93.

Women's 100 butterfly
Irina Bespalova will take the top spot in finals after her semifinal time of 58.91 today. She's within striking distance of the Olympic qualifying time of 58.70. Maria Ugolkova qualified second with a 59.96, while Svetlana Fedulova was third with a 1:00.63.

Women's 200 freestyle
Elena Sokolova will be making a push for the automatic Olympic qualifying standard of 1:58.33 in tomorrow's final after posting a 1:58.94 today. Maria Baklakova qualified second with a 2:00.83, and Daria Belyakin was third with a 2:00.84.

Special thanks to Rokur Jakupsstovu of Swimmer's Daily for translation of results.