14th FINA World Championships
Day 1 Preliminaries
Action is underway here at the 14th World Championships at the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai. Fabulous venue - and some fast swimming in prospect. First to put on an impressive show this morning was Dana Vollmer (USA), on 56.97 to lead the way through to semis of the 100m butterfly, her effort followed by a majestic and smooth performance from Sun Yang (CHN) in the 400m freestyle heats: 3:44.87.
Commonwealth Games star of 2010 Alicia Coutts, of Australia, set up a potential double-podium shot as she cruised through to semis of the 100m butterfly in second place and the 200m medley an hour later in fourth equal and this evening will also race the final of the 4x100m freestyle. A big night ahead.
Cesar Cielo made his first appearance since being warned (a ruling upheld by CAS) after testing positive for furosemide, a banned diuretic than can carry a suspension of up to two years. After racing to the helm of the 50m butterfly heats, he responded to the criticism of other swimmers by saying: "I don't know what else they want from me. I'm a swimmer, I'm here to swim. There's nothing else I can do."
One thing that can be done: provide everybody with a clear-cut explanation about how a caffeine substance could possibly have ended up with furosemide in it. So far, no news on that, with CAS's full report due sometime next month. In the absence of a clear-cut explanation, criticism is likely to continue.
The Olympic and double world champion sprinter admitted it felt "a little weird" to be back in the pool, but he insisted he did not "have to make anybody else happy ... I've had many, many emotions in the last months so it's kind of hard to just get everything together and just focus on swimming. But I have a new page in my life and I'm going to try and do my best and get myself into position for the final."
Beyond the large number of Brazilian positives and the stain that all such cases leave on a swimmer, anti-doping authorities face criticism over inconsistency in cases. Jessica Hardy (USA) served a ban of a year and missed the Olympic Games after testing positive. She also claimed cross contamination and has been cleared for Olympic selection in the US, though her fate is in the hands of the IOC, which has placed the case before CAS: any athlete who has served a doping ban is no longer eligible to compete at the Olympic Games under IOC rules.
Meanwhile, Albert Subirats (VEN) is sitting home watching proceedings from afar because his federation didn't get his whereabouts papers to anti-doping authorities on time. The penalty: a year out - for the swimmer, of course.
Below, a summary of the heats, with qualification ranges and comparisons with Rome 2009, held at a time when non-textile bodysuits were allowed before a January 1, 2010 ban was imposed and the sport returned to textile-only race apparel.
Women's 100m Butterfly
Heat 2 saw the return of 2004 Olympic 200m champion Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL) with a 59.00 effort that would leave her three places shy of a semi-final slot. It was heat 4 before the pace dipped below 59, Jemma Lowe (GBR) on 57.81 ahead of Jessica Schipper (AUS), 57.86, with defending champion Sarah Sjoestrom (SWE) safely through in 58.10 ahead of the second Brit in the mix, Ellen Gandy, on 58.32. Dana Vollmer (USA) clearly felt that the pool needed waking up: in 56.97 she put some clear blue water between her and the rest in heat 5, Jeanette Ottesen (DEN) next through in 58.32. The last eight knew what was needed but Alicia Coytts (AUS) left nothing to chance as she qualified for semis in second place on 57.49, China's Lu Ying and Liu Zige, Olympic 200m champion, following through in 57.93 and 58.44 respectively. After a tie for 17th, Vanessa Mohr (RSA) won the swim-off 58.66 to 59.47 over Sina Sutter (GER) to claim the reserve spot for the semis.
Qualifiers: 56.97-58.96 (Rome 2009: 56.76 - 58.35) - Vollmer; Coutts; Lowe; Schipper; Lu; Sjoestrom; Gandy; Ottesen; Liu; Magnuson; Dekker; Savard; Kato; Alshammar; Tao; Bespalova.
Men's 400m freestyle
Coach Dennis Cotterell's Chinese charge Sun Yang looked like the man to beat after claiming lane 4 for the final this evening with a supremely smooth 3:44.87 effort. Inside world record pace at 100m, at 53.94 (54.42, Biedermann, 2009)) and on the mark at 200m 1:51.02), Sun fell away from the heat of the Rome final over the third 100m, turning in 2:48.96 at 300m (2:47.17) on his way to what looked like a comfortable 3:44.87 that drew a cheer from the crowd of around 8,000 (estimated at this stage).
Also looking good were Peter Vanderkaay (USA), defending champion Paul Biedermann (GER) Ousamma Mellouli (TUN), Sebastian Rouault (FRA) but two of the big medal hopes, Yannick Agnel (FRA) and Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan (KOR) looked lumpy and have work to do. The Canadian 1500m ace Ryan Cochran showed strength in 3:46.88 for the last lane in the last eight. Coach Cotterell, meanwhile, has work to do back home: no Australians made the final in the arena of Perkins, Thorpe and Hackett...
Qualifiers: 3:44.87 - 3:46.88 (Rome 2009: 3:43.01 - 3:45.68) - Sun; Vanderkaay; Biedermann; Mellouli; Rouault; Agnel; Park; Cochrane
Women's 200m medley
The battle began from heat 3, with world short-course champion Mireia Belmonte (ESP) setting the pace at 2:11.38 a touch ahead of world 400m champion Katinka Hosszu (HUN), on 2:11.53, and European and Commonwealth 400m champion Hannah Miley (GBR) on 2:11.95. In the next heat, Caitlin Leverenz (USA) put the pressure on with a 2:11.01 win over Commonwealth champion Alicia Coutts (AUS), on 2:11.64 and defending world champion Ariana Kukors (USA), on 2:11.84. The smart minds on the deck spotted the cut: better than 2:13 and you're in the top 8, the top 16 an easier 2:15 or so. In the last heat, Ye Shiwen (CHN) looked very comfortable on 2:11.63, while Olympic champion Stephanie Rice (AUS) did only what she needed for a 2:12.68 eighth place. Also through: Julia Wilkinson (CAN), Olympic medallist Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), European medallist Evelyn Verraszto (HUN), like Miley coached by her father, and Erica Morningstar, the second Canadian in the semis.
Qualifiers: 2:11.01 - 2:14.97 (Rome 2009: 2:08.53 - 2:13.47) - Leverenz; Belmonte; Hosszu; Ye; Coutts; Kukors; Miley; Rice; Choi; Wilkinson; Coventry; Verraszto; Morningstar; Zavadova; O'Connor; Lecluyse
Men's 50m butterfly
There were few signs of the toll that you would expect a doping controversy to take as Cesar Cielo (BRA) flew past all in the last heat to take lane 4 of the second semi in 23.26. That was just 0.01sec swifter than the winner of the sixth heat, Geoff Huegill (AUS), with Lorent Manaudou, baby (21) bro of Laure, having taken heat 5 for France on 23.31 ahead of Commonwealth champion Jason Dunford (KEN), on 23.48 as the last inside 23.5. Amond other qualifiers were Steffen Deibler (GER), former world champion and record holder Roland Schoeman (RSA), defending world champion Milorad Cavic (SRB), on 23.76, and Fred Bousquet (FRA), on 23.84 for 14th. The ties for last place in the semi, after Joeri Verlinden (NED) and Nikita Konovalov (RUS) clocked 23.96, went to the Dutch champion in the swim-off.
Qualifiers: 23.26 - 23.96 (Rome 2009: 22.90 - 23.48) - Cielo; Huegill; Manaudou; Dunford; Deibler; Lendjer; Czerniak; Targett; Govorov; Schoeman; Heersbrandt; Cavic; Hockin; Bousquet; James; Verlinden
Women's 400m freestyle
Camille Muffat (FRA) set the pace for the final at the helm of heat 3 on 4:05.62 and emerged from a smooth swim looking untroubled even though she had been pressed by Lotte Friis (an 800/1500 ace who would later help Denmark make the 4x100m free final and this qualify her nation for a place at the Olympic Games), on 4:06.31. The fastest qualifier dominated the next heat, world champion and record holder Federica Pellegrini (ITA) looking the part on an even-paced 4:04.76 ahead of Melanie Costa (ESP), 4:07.02. Lauren Boyle, coached by Teri McKeever at Cal Berkley in the US, is coming into her prime at the age of 24: in heat 5 the New Zealander wiped another 2sec off her best time (after a 2sec improvement at trials a couple of months back) for a 4:05.86 effort that placed her alongside Pellegrini in third place in the final. Boyle kept at bay three other qualifiers: Kylie Palmer (AUS), on 4:06.38, Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington (GBR), on 4:07.38, and Olympic silver medallist Katie Hoff (USA), who closed the door to the battle for medals at 4:07.93. Among those who missed the cut: Chloe Sutton, Shao Yiwen, Bronte Barratt and Jazmin Carlin.
Qualifiers: 4:04.76 - 4:07.93 (Rome 2009: 4:01.96 - 4:05.70) - Pellegrini; Muffat; Boyle; Friis; Palmer; Costa; Adlington; Hoff.
Men's 100m breaststroke
It was heat 9 before the minute was broken, as Glenn Snydners (NZL) raced out front to a 59.94. Against a backdrop of tragic news from home, Alex Dale Oen (NOR) swept through to semis at the helm on 59.71, off 28.02, and looking like a man who has much more to give. The last man inside the minute in heats (there were 14 such swims in Rome compared to three in post-shiny-suit Shanghai) was Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima (JPN), ever the threat on 59.96 in the last heat of 11. Just over the minute were Felipe da Silva (BRA), on 1:00.01, Fabio Scozzoli (ITA), 1:00.14, Mark Gangloff (USA), 1:00.29, and Christian Sprenger (AUS), 1:00.35. Among those safely through were Ryoa Tateishi (JPN), Hugues Duboscq (FRA), Cameron Van Der Burgh (RSA), Daniel Gyurta (HUN) and defending champion Brenton Rickard (AUS). Sixth to 16th were split by 0.57sec, the last man in Lennart Stekelenburg (NED), on 1:00.86.
Dale Oen, who pointed to the Norwegian flag on his swimming cap after he clocked 59.71 seconds in the heats, broke down in tears afterwards when he was asked about the mass shooting and bombing in Oslo on Friday, that killed at least 92 people. "It was tough to get such questions," the 26-year-old told reporters before walking away to get ready for semis.
Qualifiers: 59.76 - 1:00.86 (Rome 2009: 58.98 - 1:00.05) - Dale Oen; Snyders; Kitajima; da Silva; Scozzoli; Gangloff; Sprenger; Tateishi; Duboscq; Van der Burgh; Gyurta; Titenis; Rickard; Feldweht; Jamieson; Stekelenburg
Women's 4x100m freestyle
The first heat saw the Dutch defending champions crack out a 3:35.76 helped by a 52.99 split from Femke Heemskerk, with Germany next through - Britta Steffen at the helm on 54.86 and Daniel Schreiber brining it home in 53.53 - on 3:37.28. The second heat took the USA past the Dutch on 3:35.64, Melissa Franklin on 53.57 and Jessica hardy on 53.62. China came home next, on 3:37.14, Tang Yi on 53.60. Australia, Canada, Japan and Denmark all made the cut, the Australians among those with firepower to add for the final. Fran Halsall showed good form on 53.35 but will not be going further, Britain locked out by 0.27sec.
Qualifiers: 3:35.64 - 3:39.48 - USA, NED, CHN, GER, AUS, CAN, JPN, DEN
Men's 4x100m freestyle
A storming sprint relay is in prospect, with all the big guns, France, USA, Russia, Italy and Australia through. Gaul may have swum its top four this morning, with Fabien Gilot and Jeremy Stravius two of four men inside 48sec, none in lead-off position. The other two were Australia's Matthew Abood and Italy's Filippo Magnini. Eamon Sullivan and Kyle Richardson will not have a role in the final for Australia, while Russia and the US, with Michael Phelps due for his first appearance, will also step up as they replace two names. Also through: Germany, South Africa and Britain. No relay warm up for 100m defending champion Cesar Cielo, Brazil's morning four locked out in 9th.
Qualifiers: 3:12.09 - 3:15.35 - FRA, USA, RUS, ITA, AUS, GER, RSA, GBR