World Champs, Day 6 Prelims: Crocker is Blazing Fast in 100 Butterfly

By John Lohn

MONTREAL, Canada, July 29. THE sixth morning of the World Championships was a lengthy one, as preliminaries were conducted in six events. The races on the docket were the women’s 50 butterfly, men’s 50 freestyle, women’s 800 freestyle, men’s 100 butterfly, women’s 200 backstroke and the men’s 800 freestyle relay. Here’s what happened.

Women’s 50 Butterfly

Instead of swimming the 50 backstroke, because it would have called for three events in a single evening session, Natalie Coughlin opted for the 50 butterfly. After the prelims of the sprint fly, her decision is looking pretty good. Coughlin posted the fastest morning swim, as she covered her lap in 26.50, while swimming in Lane 8.

Australia’s Danni Miatke secured the second-quickest qualifying mark, behind a swim of 26.56. She was followed in the third and fourth slots by Sweden’s Therese Alshammar (26.63) and Austria’s Fabienne Nadarajah (26.70). Sweden’s Anna-Karin Kammerling, the world-record holder, placed fifth heading to the semifinals with a time of 26.89.

Rounding out the top eight qualifiers were New Zealand’s Elizabeth Coster (27.01), the Netherlands’ Inge Dekker (27.05) and Italy’s Elena Gemo (27.13). Australia’s Alice Mills qualified ninth (27.15). The United States’ Rachel Komisarz did not have a good swim in the morning and missed advancing to the semifinals with her time of 27.44, good for 18th.

Men’s 50 Freestyle

Although he’s been a player on the international scene for years, it was a bit surprising to see Poland’s Bartosz Kizierowski claim the top seed for the semifinals of the men’s 50 freestyle. Kizierowski, swimming out of Lane 2, produced a time of 22.08, easily the best performance of the morning and the fastest time in the world this year.

Frenchman Fred Bousquet, an Auburn University product, was second quickest from the prelims, as he covered the one-lap sprint in 22.21, slightly ahead of the 22.24 produced by Algeria’s Salim Iles. France’s Julien Sicot (22.31) and the Ukraine’s Oleksandr Volynets (22.38) occupied the fourth and fifth positions heading to the semifinals.

The Olympic silver and bronze medalists were sixth and seventh after the morning. Croatia’s Duje Draganja turned in a swim of 22.41 and was followed by South Africa’s Roland Schoeman in 22.42. The United States’ Nick Brunelli and Spain’s Javier Noriega tied for the eighth-fastest time, as each man clocked in at 22.47.

American Jason Lezak fizzled out during the preliminaries, as he touched the wall in a pedestrian 22.72, good for only 21st. Other notable names failing to advance to the semifinals included South Africa’s Ryk Neethling (18th), Lithuania’s Rolandas Gimbutis (23rd) and Australia’s Michael Klim (26th). Neethling already owns bronze in the 100 and 200 free events.

Women’s 800 Freestyle

She has been the darling of the Montreal crowd this week, thanks to a fourth-place finish in the 400 freestyle and a bronze-medal showing in the 1,500 free. On Friday morning, Brittany Reimer gave her fans some more to cheer about. Covering the 16 laps in 8:30.96, Reimer qualified first for Saturday’s final of the 800-meter freestyle.

Reimer will have a difficult time winning the event, but should be in the medal mix. As for gold, American Kate Ziegler is the heavy favorite. The winner of the 1,500 free earlier this week, Ziegler qualified sixth in 8:35.81. Expect the teenage sensation to drop considerable time during the championship race, exactly what she did between the prelims and finals of the metric mile.

Japan’s Ai Shibata was the second-quickest qualifier, going 8:30.98 and was followed in third by Switzerland’s Flavia Rigamonti (8:33.34). Rigamonti was the silver medalist in the 1,500 free. Great Britain’s Rebecca Cooke advanced in fourth with a time of 8:33.48 and Germany’s Jana Henke was fifth (8:35.73). The seventh and eighth slots were taken by Romania’s Camelia Potec (8:36.21) and Spain’s Erika Villaecija (8:37.42).

Men’s 100 Butterfly

Did Ian Crocker think he was swimming the final of the 100-meter butterfly? Or, is he in that good of shape? Blasting off the blocks, Crocker clocked 51.19 during the prelims of his pet event, the fifth-fastest performance in history and an indicator that he’ll give his world record of 50.76 a push. Obviously, Crocker was the top qualifier heading into the semifinals.

Beginning his final individual event of the meet, Michael Phelps notched the second-fastest qualifying time while using his typical strategy. In seventh place at the turn, Phelps gobbled up the opposition during the last half of the race and touched the wall in 52.32. The Olympic champ, Phelps was followed in third by Russia’s Igor Marchenko (52.76). The Ukraine’s Andriy Serdinov, the Olympic bronze medalist, was fourth in 52.94.

Taking the fifth and sixth spots for the semifinals were a pair of notable names, Germany’s Thomas Rupprath and Serbia and Montenegro’s Milorad Cavic. Rupprath checked in with a time of 53.03 and Cavic came through in 53.07. The top eight was completed by Slovenia’s Peter Mankoc (53.13) and Brazil’s Gabriel Mangabeira (53.15).

Women’s 200 Backstroke

Already the champion in the 100 backstroke and the silver medalist in the 200 individual medley, Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry started her push toward gold in the 200 backstroke on Friday morning. The Olympic titlist in the event, Coventry shared the fastest time of the prelims, as she covered the distance in 2:11.52. That performance was matched by Denmark’s Louise Ornstedt.

The silver medalist in the 200 back at the 2003 World Champs, the United States’ Margaret Hoelzer registered the third-fastest qualifying time, as she touched the wall in 2:11.74. Hoelzer was followed in fourth by Russia’s Stanislava Komarova (2:11.84) and fifth went to Japan’s Hanae Ito with a swim of 2:12.67.

Japan’s Reiko Nakamura collected the sixth seed for the semifinals behind a mark of 2:12.87 and seventh place in the morning was taken by Australia’s Tayliah Zimmer (2:13.38). Great Britain’s Katy Sexton, the defending world champ, was eighth in 2:13.39. American Jeri Moss also advanced to the semifinals, finishing 12th after prelims in 2:13.76.

Men’s 800 Freestyle Relay

The United States breezed to the fastest time of the morning and is solidly positioned to win gold tonight, and in convincing fashion. With Ian Thorpe bypassing the event and taking a year off, Australia does not possess the firepower required to stay with the U.S., which was timed in 7:12.06. The United States is the reigning Olympic champion.

The U.S. went with a quartet of Jayme Cramer (1:49.19), Peter Vanderkaay (1:47.73), Matt McGinnis (1:48.30) and Klete Keller (1:46.84) for the preliminary heat. Vanderkaay and Keller are expected to join Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte for the final, thus reuniting the squad that soared to Olympic gold. The foursome should give the American record of 7:07.33 a scare.

Japan moved into the final as the second seed with a time of 7:15.16 and Canada was third-fastest in the morning session with an effort of 7:15.66. Australia moved on with the fourth-fastest time (7:16.45), but will be significantly quicker during the championship heat, thanks to the addition of Grant Hackett to the lineup.

Filling out the field for the final were Greece (7:16.57), Germany (7:16.72), Italy (7:17.34) and Russia (7:19.30). Italy should make a run at the silver medal, as Emiliano Brembilla did not compete during the prelims. The Italians could also add Filippo Magnini to their squad. Magnini is fresh off capturing a world title in the 100 free.