World Championships: Top Spot in 100 Breast Prelims Goes to Tara Kirk; Leisel Jones is Lurking

By John Lohn

MELBOURNE, Australia, March 25. BARRING a major upset, a toppling that would go down as one of the biggest in the sport in recent years, Aussie Leisel Jones is going to walk away with gold in the 100 breaststroke. But, it was the United States' Tara Kirk who posted the fastest time of the preliminary round, clocking in at 1:07.23.

Kirk, who had a strong leadup to Melbourne, including a personal-best effort of 1:06.82 at the Missouri Grand Prix in mid-February, raced in the first of the three circle-seeded heats. Her time then held on for top honors in the morning, holding off the 1:07.53 breezer of a swim turned in by Jones, who was heavily cheered upon her introduction.

In the past three years, Jones has taken ownership of the 100 and 200 breaststroke events in overwhelming fashion. She is the only woman in history to break 1:06 and her global standard of 1:05.09 is more than a second clear of the 1:06.20 American record of Jessica Hardy, the second-quickest performer ever. Jones very well could challenge the 1:05 barrier.

The third qualifying position went to Ukrainian Anna Khlistunova in 1:07.66 while Hanna Westrin of Sweden was fourth in 1:08.30, followed by Hardy in fifth with a showing of 1:08.68. France's Anne Sophie Le Paranthoen (1:08.78) and Aussie Tarnee White (1:08.97) were the other swimmers to break 1:09.

Click Here to view event results PDF file.