Rome 2009 world championships.
The circus has begun. Sarah Sjostrom, in a blue X-Glide, threatened Inge de Bruijn's world record from 2000 with the first championship record in the history of performance-enhancement suits: 56.76.
Clearly a talent who will be a force when the rollback on suits takes hold, the Swedish champion entered the meet with a 57.90 entry time. She hardly drew a breath as she emerged smiling from the pool before 9.30am.
The championship record had stood to Libby Tricket at 57.15 since Melbourne 2007, a bygone world of another sport, one that may soon be revived if the FINA Bureau honour the wishes of the 168 nations that voted to bring an end to the farce of performance-enhancement in suits.
That times on the clock at these championships are irrelevant is not to be questioned. Ludicrous, farcical, comical and abhorrent was the list of qualification times, with ten women racing inside 58sec.
Here are the stats compared to Melbourne 2007, just as an aid to understanding why the clock is irrelevant and why the Roman circus of the next eight days can only be considered in the context of being a race held in very unusual circumstances. Circumstances that leave Marleen Veldhuis in 12th in heats on 58.06.
Rome 2009 heats:
Melbourne 2007 heats:
Sjostrom turned in 27.05. Going through to semis in her wake, Dana Vollmer (USA), on 57.15, and Jess Schipper (AUS) on 57.17. The rate of best times set by swimmers in the heats was well ahead of what we would have expected in the past. In one of the "development" heats that went with eight of the ten women in jaked01 suits, six women wiped more than a second off their previous best times. In the very first heats, swimmers from the developing world wre taking between 3 and 6 seconds off their best 100m butterfly times.