Ryan Lochte (USA) threw down the gauntlet within the first half an hour of action at the World s/c Championships here in Dubai this morning with a confident display on his way to a 1:42.38 championship record over 200m freestyle. Among the casualties on a list of learners: Yannick Agnel (FRA), 10th in 1:43.51.
Speed warmed up in the 7th of 10 heats of the 200m, with Canada's Hassaan Abdel on 1:46.83. Then the show took off with a tight clash between Oussama Mellouli (TUN) and Danila Izotov (RUS), Mellouli breaking out over the last three lengths on his way to a 1:42.41 championship record inside the 1:43.28 of Ian Thorpe (AUS) from way back in Hong Kong in 1999. Izotov followed in 1:43.20, 0.09sec ahead of Dominic Meichtry (SUI).
By the 100m mark of the 9th heat, Paul Biedermann (GER) was fifth but the pack led by Cayman Islander Shaune Fraser in a line. Going into last 50m, less than a second split seven men. By the close, Nikita Lobintsev (RUS) had the edge on 1:42.59, Biedermann on 142.73, Fraser on 1:42.98 and Pawel Korzeniowski (POL) on 1:43.05.
Next up, the rolling thunderball. Ryan Lochte (USA) led at 100m on 50.12 and rushed away from the pack with every passing stroke. He looked superb, high rolling, in control, a man who gained at every turn on his way to a championship record of 1:42.38, his last three strokes taken at ease-off, shakeout pace that suggested he could have clocked a morning 1:41.5 or so had he wanted to. In his wake Yannick Agnel (FRA) on 1:43.51 but out of the final in 10th, a lesson learned perhaps, Peter Vanderkaay (USA) on 1:43.82 and also out, in 12th.
Lochte, a mega programme ahead of him, said: "I'm just going to take each race at a time. I'm excited for tonight - it's going to be great, with so many competitors. My first race is usually my worst but I was lucky enough to win this one." It didn't look much like luck - it looked like Lochte in form and gunning for gold. Check out the Lochte video here.
Agnel said that he felt well and could have gone faster. He had made a mistake. At French trials for the European Championships this year, he missed the time cut in morning heats and a potential match for the title race in Budapest with Paul Biedermann was off. That experience would appear not to have served its purpose: to teach swimmers the need for speed and leaving nothing to chance in morning heats when the world is gathered for battle.
A fantastic 200m final in prospect:
Russia the only nation to get two past the post, and all eight men inside Thorpe's 1999 standard.
In the women's 200m butterfly, the first heat produced an odd sight, world record holder and Olympic champion Liu Zige (CHN), teammate Fan Guo and European champion Katinka Hosszu (HUN) at either side of three swimmers half a minute or so slower. The speedsters had no s/c metres entry times. Hosszu, in from LA at 9.30pm yesterday and only a quick dip in the hotel pool in between, cracked out a fierce pace, on 2:04.56. Liu's effort of 2:06.18 would be good enough for last place in the final as the first woman over 2:06.
Mireia Belmonte (ESP), on 2:04.84, is one side of Hosszu in the final, Jemma Lowe (GBR), in from Florida, on the other, in 2:05.24, with Felicity Galvez (AUS) and Audrey Lacroix (CAN) close.
Liu eased off on her way to the wall but had done enough to make the final by 0.13sec.
In the 400m medley, Zuszsanna Jakabos (HUN) and European and Commonwealth champion Hannah Miley (GBR) looked to be at ease side by side in the last heat as they booked lanes 4 and 5 respectively in 4:30.92 and 4:31.04. They had the benefit of knowledge, having watched teenagers Ye Shiwen (CHN) and her teammate Li Xuanxu go go 4:31.90 and 4:32.16 respectively. Also through, Mireia Belmonte (ESP) and world 200m medley l/c champion Ariana Kukors (USA).
That knocked out Dagny Knutson (USA), 4:35.91, and former world record holder from 2009 Katheryn Meaklim (RSA), on 4:36.93.
The men's 4x100m freestyle promises another thriller, the championship mark of 3:08.44, by USA in 2008, downed in 3:07.78 by A-B team Russians Evgeny Lagunov (46.89), Alex Sukhorov (46.82), Nikita Konovalov (47.38) and Sergey Fesikov (46.69). Australia was close at hand, on 3:08.06, the USA on 3:08.69. All have swimmers to shuffle, while the efforts of James Magnussen, Matthew Abood, Kyle Richardson and Tomasso D’Orsogna set an Australian record inside the 3:10.32 from 2008.
The times of Russia, Australia and the USA established a new standard as the best three times ever in textile suits.
That locked out Canada, in 9th on 3:14.05. Meanwhile, back in 14th a swimming world champs first: United Arab Emirates 3:35.72. The team, Obaid, Saeed, Bakheet and Faisal Aljasmi, all brothers from of family of six boys. Read more about the family's entry into the Guiness Book of Records here.
The women's 200m freestyle heats placed the USA in lane 4 for the final on 7:40.63 in the last heat, ahead of Australia, on 7:40.92, and China, on 7:41.10 in the heat before that. The swiftest three splits in the race: Kylie Palmer (AUS), 1:53.22, Katie Hoff (USA), 1:53.25, and Zhu Qianwei (CHN) 1:53.90.
The top five finishing times set the fastest five efforts by quartets wearing textile suits.
That locked out Canada, on 7:52.68.
In other events leading to semis:
Women's 50m breaststroke
Yulia Efimova (RUS) led the way through to semis in 30.10, with Rebecca Soni (USA), on 30.11, and Commonwealth champion Leiston Pickett (AUS) on 30.30. A newish experience for Soni, who said: "The 50 is a funny race. It's hard for me to get going but my time is pretty good. Short-course metres are new to me. I've only raced it a couple of times. It feels quite exciting and the pool feels fast. It felt great out there and I love the atmosphere."
Men's 100m backstroke
Stanislav Donets (RUS) tested the 15m rule out of the start and on all turns on his way to a 50.18 finish, racing hard into the wall. No major causualties on the way to semis, closest to the leader Jérémy Starvous (FRA) on 50.63, David Plummer (USA) on 50.74, and world record holder Nicholas Thoman (USA) on 50.93. Also in the mix, Aschwin Wildeboer (ESP), Ryosuke Irie (JPN) and Camille Lacourt (FRA).
Men's 100m breaststroke
Fabio Scozzoli (ITA) cracked out a championship record of 57.60, off a 27.02 split, to lead the way to the semis ahead of Vladislav Polyakov (KAZ), on 57.80, and Mike Alexandrov (USA), on 58.06, teammate Mark Gangloff close on 58.21 before Daniuel Gyurta (HUN) on 58.31 and Hugues Duboscq (FRA) on 58.42. Scozzoli's time took him inside the 57.74 meet standard set by Igor Boryskik (UKR) in 2008 and marked the 4th best ever performance by a swimmer in a textile suit (equivalent to 21st taking into account non-textile suits now banned).
Also among qualifiers were world record holder Felipe Silva (BRA), 58.67, world l/c record holder Brenton Rickard (AUS), 58.68, world champion Cameron Van Der Burgh (RSA), 58.69, and world 200m l/c record holder Christian Sprenger (AUS) on 58.79. The depth of the challenge left German teammate Hendrik Feldwehr, 58.97, and and Marco Koch, 59.02, out in the cold in 17th and 18th.
There was better news from Germany from home: former international Antje Buschschulte became a mother last Friday in Magdeburg, the little girl is called Nike-Carlotta, weighed in at just shy of 3.5kg and is 54 cm long.
Women's 100m backstroke
Terrific teenage talent Melissa Franklin (USA) led the way on 57.33, with Rachel Goh (AUS) on 57.54, with Gao Chang (CHN) on 57.56. Also among those through to semis Marieke Guehrer (AUS) and Olympic champion Natalie Coughlin (USA), both inside 58, with Zhao Jing (CHN) first over 58sec. No major casualties though worth noting the young gun in 18th on 59.26: Sara Sjoestrom started out as a backstroke swimmer on her way to becoming European and world 100m butterfly champion. World-class on freestyle too, the Swedish teenager may one day be a force to reckon with over 200m medley should she wish to go that way.
Men's 100m butterfly
Jason Dunford (KEN) looked strong and easy on 50.38, those closest to him through to semis Albert Subirats (VEN), 50.63, and Konrad Czerniak (POL), 50.70. Dunford's effort marked the 5th best time ever by a swimmer in a textile suit (equivalent to 24th if non-textile suits now banned are included in the count) In the hunt for medals tomorrow will be Masayuki Kishida (JPN) Tyler McGill (USA), Geoff Huegill (AUS), Evgeny Korotyshkin (RUS). Among casualties out of the top 16 were Germany's Ben Starke and Steffen Deibler, Wu Peng (CHN) and Fabien Gilot (FRA).
Tricky to fit in an entire Olympic programme plus 50m events on each stroke, with semis up to 100m, across five days, that struggle reflected in part by a wide variation in the number of finals day by day. Today, we have five, the eight, then 10, then just five on Saturday before a breathtaking 13 fit to silence the fat lady bring down the curtain on Sunday evening.
Dubai 2010, Dec 15-19 - The finals countdown: