World Champs, Day 2 Prelims: Coughlin, Peirsol Breeze in 100 Backstroke; Phelps is Back on Track

By John Lohn

MONTREAL, Canada, July 25. HERE is a recap of the preliminary session from the second day of swimming at the 11th edition of the FINA World Championships, held at Parc Jean-Drapeau. Prelim heats were held in the men’s and women’s 100 backstrokes, the men’s 200 freestyle, the women’s 100 breaststroke and the women’s 1,500 freestyle.

Women’s 100 Backstroke

Exerting little energy, the United States’ Natalie Coughlin led all qualifiers into the semifinals, as she negotiated the two-lap distance in 1:01.25. Coughlin was well ahead of her competition as the swimmers surfaced – hardly a surprise – and shut it down heading into the wall. Barring disaster, the Olympic champ will run away with the gold medal.

Japan’s Reiko Nakamura secured the second seed for the semifinals, as she won her heat in 1:01.40, finishing ahead of Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry, the Olympic silver medalist who produced a time of 1:01.51. Sitting between Nakamura and Coventry is German Antje Buschschulte, who topped her heat with a swim of 1:01.41, and New Zealand’s Hannah McLean (1:01.46).

The rest of the top eight includes Japan’s Hanae Ito (1:01.95), Denmark’s Louise Ornstedt (1:02.07) and Australia’s Giann Rooney (1:02.25). American Jeri Moss also advanced to the semifinals, as she touched the wall in 1:02.50.

Men’s 200 Freestyle

Michael Phelps’ second individual foray went considerably better than his first. A day after failing to advance to the final of the 400 freestyle, Phelps cruised through the preliminary round of the 200 free with the second-fastest qualifying time heading into the semifinals. The eight-time Olympic medalist covered the four-lap distance in 1:48.17.

Fresh off a world title in the 400 free, Australia’s Grant Hackett posted the fastest time of the morning, as he touched the pads in 1:47.88, just ahead of the 1:48.37 of South Africa’s Ryk Neethling. Hackett is handling a grueling schedule this week, swimming the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyles. He is searching for a fourth straight world crown in the metric mile.

The United States’ Peter Vanderkaay, a legitimate contender for the bronze medal, collected the fourth-fastest qualifying swim, behind a time of 1:48.53. He was followed in fifth by Canada’s Brent Hayden (1:48.59) and in sixth by France’s Amaury Leveaux (1:48.69). The seventh and eighth spots were taken by Italy’s Emiliano Brembilla (1:48.70) and Filippo Magnini (1:48.78).

Women’s 100 Breaststroke

Taking her first step toward a world championship, Australia’s Leisel Jones led the way into the semifinals of the 100 breast with a time of 1:07.26. Trailing the United States’ Jessica Hardy at the turn, Jones closed the gap down the stretch and narrowly edged the American. Hardy clocked in at 1:07.34, the second-fastest swim of the morning and proof that she may challenge Megan Jendrick’s American record of 1:07.05.

The only other swimmer to dip under 1:08 was the United States’ Tara Kirk, who won her heat in a time of 1:07.80. Although they qualified for the semifinals, two notable athletes didn’t have solid morning performances. Australia’s Brooke Hanson managed just a 1:09.34, but may have been holding back energy for tonight’s final of the 200 individual medley. Meanwhile, two-time defending world champ, China’s Luo Xuejuan, was timed in 1:09.83, likely due to the ankle injury she recently suffered.

Germany’s Sarah Poewe was the fourth-fastest qualifier, going 1:08.64 and was followed in fifth by Poland’s Beata Kaminska (1:08.69). South Africa’s Suzaan Van Biljon (1:08.70) was sixth in the prelim session and Great Britain’s Kate Haywood and Italy’s Chiara Boggiatto shared seventh in 1:08.76.

Men’s 100 Backstroke

Floating along world-record holder Aaron Peirsol strolled through the morning prelims, posting the top time of 54.41. The reigning Olympic and world champion, Peirsol could threaten the 53-second barrier Tuesday night, when the final is held. As for the semifinals, Peirsol will likely cruise again. His global standard sits at 53.17.

Greece’s Aristeidis Grigoriadis was second-fastest in the prelims while the United States’ Randall Bal and Australia’s Andrew Lauterstein were tied for third in 54.88, barely ahead of the 54.89 of Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, who will also contest the 200 and individual medley events later this week. Austria’s Markus Rogan was the other man under the 55-second mark, clocking 54.97.

Holding down the seventh and eighth places were Slovenia’s Blaz Medvesek (55.03) and Japan’s Junichi Miyashita (55.05). Australia’s Matt Welsh also advanced to the semifinals, but managed only a time of 55.40.

Women’s 1,500 Freestyle

The metric mile finished with Great Britain’s Rebecca Cooke nailing down the top seed for Tuesday’s final with a swim of 16:15.69. Cooke touched the wall a little more than two seconds ahead of the United States’ Laura Conway, who put in a performance of 16:17.97. The third slot for the final went to Switzerland’s Flavia Rigamonti, who went 16:18.14.

Coming off a fourth-place showing in the 400 free, Canada’s Brittany Reimer had the fourth-fastest qualifying time (16:21.55) and was succeeded by Germany’s Jana Henke in 16:22.57. The final field was rounded out by Japan’s Yumi Kida (16:23.05), the United States’ Kate Ziegler (16:26.75) and Spain’s Erika Villaecija (16:29.54).