The Eindhoven sprint showdown is done: Sarah Sjöström (SWE) inflicted an early season wound on double Olympic sprint champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo with a 53.66 to 53.83 win in the Dutch sprinter's home pool over 100m freestyle at the Swim Cup in the Pieter Van Den Hoogenband Pool.
Cate Campbell (AUS), on 53.51 at the Super Series Down Under in January, still leads the world rakings. Until today she had the only sub-54sec performance of the year. It was only a matter of time before she had company.
Femke Heemskerk (NED and Kromowidjojo's KNZB-NTC teammate) is 4th on the 2013 list after a 54.02 third place today, Britta Steffen (GER), the 2008 double Olympic champion, locked out in 54.35 as the last inside 55sec. Steffen has her own world-title trials towards the end of the month.
Heemskerk and Kromowidjojo, seeking world-titles berths at Barcelona 2013, turned first in 26.19 and 26.24 respectively, Sjostrom close on 26.30 and Steffen on 26.31. The home lap settled the argument in favour of the Swedish ace who leaves her teenage years behind this year, three summer's after taking her first world crown at Rome 2009.
Speaking in Dutch after the race to reporter John Volkers of de Volkskrant, Kromowidjojo said: "Sarah Sjöström is swimming fast on many occasions. As you know. I am swimming fast mostly on the important moments. My technique is OK at the moment, but my physical condition can improve. I can lose a few kilos over the next three months. It would be crazy if I had swum the same time as last year at the Swim Cup [52.75]. I started many months later than in 2011-2012.
"From now on the road to Barcelona will be the same as the road to London," she added. "I will do a camp on Tenerife to improve my stamina. After that I will use the Sette Colli [Seven Hills] in Rome to test myself at peak. Before Barcelona we will have a last training camp in Callela. I will be much better in Barcelona. Jacco Verhaeren, the director, and Marcel Wouda, my coach, are convinced I can catch up in my quality the upcoming months. There is one important event this season - ad that's the World Championships."
In other action, Georgia Davies (GBR and Swansea) cracked the minute with a 59.97 win in the 100m backstroke ahead of Sharon van Rouwendaal, 1:01.78, and Kira Toussaint, 1:02.17, Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) testing her medley skills with a 1:02.89 effort in fourth.
Britain celebrated another win when James Broady, of Loughborough, clocked 2:13.37 to win the 200m breaststroke ahead of training partner Laurent Carnoil (LUX), on 2:14.52. The bronze went to Ross Murdoch, of Stirling in Scotland, on 2:15.37, 0.17sec ahead of Lith Sebas, KNZB-RTC.
Bastiaan Lijesen, KNZB-NTC, clocked 54.04 (off 26.10) to win the 100m backstroke ahead of Sweden's Simon Sjödin, 55.39, Brit Xavier Mohammed third in 56.34.
Sergey Fesikov clocked 22.15 in semis of the 50m free and 22.18 to win the final 22.28 in the semis of the 50m freestyle ahead of Russia and ADN Swim Project teammate Andrey Govorov, on 22.28 in semis and 22.43 in the final. Jasper van Mierlo got the Dutch crown in 22.55 to 22.73 for Sebastiaan Verschuren.
Joline Hostman (SWE) took the 200m breaststroke in 2:26.81, medley ace Hannah Miley (GBR and Garioch) on 2:29.15, Stirling's Kerry Buchan third in 2:30.51.
Inge Dekker, PSV, on 26.53 in semis, took the 50 'fly final in 26.19, Jemma Lowe (GBR) on 26.89 for second, Elinore de Jong, De Otters Het Gooi, third in 27.10.
Dion Dreesens, KNZB-NTC, got the better if Robbie Renwick (GBR and Glasgow), 3:51.83 to 3:52.09 in the 400m freestyle, the bronze going to the winner's teammate Ferry Weertman, 1500m winner and open water ace, in 3:52.27.