Rome 2009, Day 5
Women's 200m breaststroke semi-finals
Annamay Pierse became the first Canadian since Allison Higson in 1988 to claim the world record in the 200m breaststroke, with a 2:20.12 streamlined swim off a half-way split of 1:07.28. Pierse was ahead of world-record pace the whole way: 0.14 under at 50, 0.18 under at 100, 0.28 under at 150, and 0.10sec inside Rebecca Soni's mark, set en route to the Olympic crown last summer.
Soni (USA) took the first semi-final in 2:20.93. Last into the final was Rie Kaneto (JPN), on 2:22.92. Eight women inside 2:23. Extraordinary. All wore shiny suits. But not all in the semis: watch for Yulia Efimova (RUS) when swimming is revived. She wore a traditional textile suit cut at the hip and with skimpy shoulder straps, open back, and clocked 2:26.39. She got out of the water, walked away quietly, a smile on her face. Her time will come. As it will come for the likes of Alex Dale Oen, of Norway. He did something similar in the men's events and went unnoticed. It will not always be so. Good for her. Good for him. Good for them.
Pierse said she was looking forward to the final and that big clash with an American Olympic champ who will want to get the standard back, let alone claim the crown.
"I knew I had it in me," said Pierse. "I knew I had to have a great swim." A great swim in a not-so-great suit. Important to note.
"She was very poised in her race," said Pierre Lafontaine, head coach to Canada. "She wasn’t overdoing anything and kept her technique. Now she is going to turn her focus to trying to win gold." Where great technique ends and suit assistance begins in this mad month of July is anyone's guess. We will know next year. Pierse, a pupil of Josef Nagy, is technically very good indeed.
Leisel Jones went through to the final at the helm in 2007, on 2:23.75, ahead of 2:25.45 for Kirsty Balfour (GB). Jones's effort would have placed her 12th in Rome tonight. Coming out of Melbourne 2007, the 2:23.64 at which Penny Heyns, double Olympic champion from South Africa, held her last world record in 1999, stood 4th best ever. Now: gone from the top 15.