Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington (GBR) claimed the last lane in the 400m freestyle with a 4:05.70. Lane four went to local favourite and world-record holder federica Pellegrini (ITA), who raced inside world-record pace for the first 200m before fading slowly away from the mark to finish on 4:01.96. That took her and her shiny suit below the textile bodysuited 4:02.61 championship record set by former swim and love rival Laure Manaudou (FRA) in Melbourne 2007.
The final will be a ferocious affair. All 100% shiny suited barring Adlington in her 50% LZR, who last year at the Olympic Games qualified for the final in 4:02.24, the field looked in tip-top shape and champing at the bit to breach a 4-minute barrier that would be magical were it not for the suits. With the suits, the history of the moment is lost because the thread to history has been severed by apparel that enhances performance to very significant degree indeed.
Pellegrini was followed by Allison Schmitt (USA), on 4:02.80 and looking strong at the end, and Joanne Jackson (GBR), on 4:03.48 and easy. Coralie Balmy (FRA) went through on 4:04.12, ahead of Camelia Potec (ROM), pretty but not so in a pink suit that stuck out like a sore limb, 4:04.25. Ophelie Cyrielle Etienne (FRA), on 4:05.25, and Lotte Friis (DEN), ahead of Adlington in heat 4 on 4:05.40.
Rome 2009 heats:
Top 8 through: 4:01.96 - 4:05.70
Melbourne 2009 heats:
Top 8 through: 4:05.29 - 4:08.38