Rome 2009, Day 6
Men's 100m butterfly semi-finals; Women's 200m breaststroke final
Milorad Cavic (SRB) followed up the 200m breaststroke victory of his teammate Nadja Higl with a 50.01 world record in the second semi final of the 100m 'fly. The first semi was won by Michael Phelps (USA), in 50.48. Phelps had held the world record in 50.22. He wore a LZR, Cavic an X-Glide. The rematch of Beijing - Phelps 0.01sec ahead of Cavic for gold - is on, but Bob Bowman, mentor to the multiple Olympic champion has likened the fight to a handicap horse race.
The splits compared:
The splits are the key to how the final will play out. As a relaxed Phelps was saying tonight: Cavic is explosive off the blocks, his first 25m critical to first-length speed. Cavic turned exactly 1sec ahead of Phelps's world-record pace at the 50m. In Rome, Phelps turned in 23.87, his speed on the way home a fraction down on his world-record swim of earlier this month. Phelps needs to get a few tenths closer on the way out to be sure of getting close at the finish. And then there is the suit: the LZR is more than it should be, let's be clear - and the X-Glide has been helping people get home down the last length faster than they had ever dreamt of before experiencing fast-forward in a suit.
"My first 50 is going to have to be a lot closer than a second behind," said Phelps. "The guy's got a lot of speed. He was almost seven-tenths faster going out than he was coming back. I'm going to have to step on the gas for that first 25. It's going to be the same as it was at the Olympics. I'm probably going to have to be at his hips [0.5sec or so] in order to run him down. You live for races like this."
Cavic's mark was the 34th world record of the championships. Swimming has never seen the like. The previous record count at Olympic or world level was 29, at Montreal 1976, when goggles were worn in Olympic waters for the first time. Some changes are good for the sport, others are down right damaging. FINA has now set a deadline for the circus: from January 1, 2010 there will no more bodysuits and no more poly and so forth. Textile-only and swimming by swimmers for swimmers.
You can catch up on the Cavic gauntlet and the handicap hurdle here.
And here is what Phelps said, while tugging on the flap of his Speed LZR in reply to Cavic's suggestion that the American try some different suits out: "If he wants to wear a different suit, he can throw this one on."
Cavic was quoted as saying all sorts of things that could be read one way or another. I was not standing there when he said them, so can't tell what was meant and in what tone it was delivered. As such, I won't repeat the words that were passed on to Phelps, and who commented on them and who will doubtless use them as fuel.
The fastest man through in Melbourne 2007, Ian Crocker, would have finished 13th in Rome.
Women's 200m breaststroke final
Higl, meantime, won the 200m breaststroke, in 2:21.62, the silver and bronze going to Annamay Pierse (CAN, on 2:21.84, and Mirna Jukic (AUT) in 2:21.97. On 2:22.15 was Rebecca Soni (USA), the Olympic champion who made a big mistake: she turned a league ahead in 1:05.73 at the half-way mark and was still leading 10m from home. That's when the elephant fell on her back.
Leisel Jones, when clocking 2:20.54 went through in 1:08.18. The talk around the deck is that had the suits stayed around longer, swimmers would have come to understand more about how to use them to best advantage. Soni needed to understand a little more about the benefits of her suit, perhaps. Better still, she will have next year to learn more about her own abilities as a swimmer capable of cracking 2:20, at least for the past two two summer seasons in fast suits.