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Languid Lochte's Taster For The Triple

Dec 16, 2010  - Craig Lord

The morning after the night on which he trounced a shoal of world-class 200m free specialists, the versatile Ryan Lochte, his lazy, languid, easy prelims style to the fore once more, put the world 400m medley mark on notice with a 4:01.76 championship record inside the times that swept him to victory in 2006 and 2008. The triple is surely on.

Olympic 1,500m free champion Oussama Mellouli, a Tunisian embedded in the California camp of Dave Salo, and double Commonwealth champion Chad Le Clos (RSA), served as Lochte's pace-makers and swim alongside the defending champion from 2008 until the American decided to make a point about finishing freestyle speed. The three raced in heat one because they had no short-course metres entry time. Mellouli came home in 4:02.27, Le Clos in 4:03.81.

Next up, Tyler Clary (USA) made sure of a place in the race tonight with a 4:03.02 before the world record holder Laszlo Cseh (HUN), on 3:57.27 in December 2009 on the eve of the the non-textile suit ban, raced knowing what he had to do to a 4:04.44. Both Clary and Cseh appeared to be tested no more than the first-heat challenge had tested those heading for the hunt this evening. Keep a watch for Lochte on video and in photos here.

It took a 4:11 or slightly slower to access the long medley final at the past four championships. This time, Alexander Tikhorov's 4:06.96 for Russia closed the door like a drum roll of honour for the influence of Michael Phelps, away but hardly forgotten, in raising the bar not just for those who might challenge him for gold but for many deep down the ranks around the world, a fair few of the internationals in those depths having benefitted from time spent in the USA and learning to appreciate what it takes to be competitive on the biggest of occasions.

Other events:

Women's 100m freestyle

Nine heats had passed before the first swimmer cracked 53sec, Femke Heemskerk (NED) raising the bar to 52.62. Natalie Coughlin hit back in heat 11 of 12 with a 52.27sec display of wall work, her work in and out of turns crippling to those racing in different mode in the lanes beside her. Each lap, the American, who has worked for long years on underwater skills and out them to good use on the way to Olympic and world titles and many other prizes in between, reestablished her dominance, those able to catch up a little on the swim, losing their gain at the next turn. Coughlin's effort left her 0.10sec shy of the championship record shared by Therese Alshammar (SWE), held since 2000, and Marleen Veldhuis (NED). 

Alshammar is focussing on the 50m dashes free and 'fly (see below) and the 100m 'fly in Dubai, while Veldhuis is back home making her way on the comeback trail. Ranomi Krowmowidjojo, a Dutch domestic rival who made hay while her teammate was away becoming a mum, will test Coughlin and the event standard in semis tonight as second-fastest through in 52.39. That last heat also witnessed a 52.85 from Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, of the Bahamas. That's a best time for a 20-year-old entered with a 53.47 and sporting a long-course best from 2009 of 54.96. A shot at the podium before too long, perhaps, for a nation that has never been there before.  Last into the semis was Margarita Nesterova (RUS), on 53.94, which locked out 2005 world l/c champion Hanna Maria Seppala (FIN) and Pang Jiaying (CHN).

Women's 50m Butterfly

Evergreen Therese Alshammar (SWE), a European champion and Olympic silver medallist back in 2000 and going stronger than ever, cracked out a 25.23 championship record to lead the way through to semi-finals. Check out her answers alongside Fran Halsall (GBR) in our arena "how rivals square up" feature. Next through this morning was Felicity Galvez (AUS), on 25.41, with Inge Dekker (NED) on 25.67 and Triin Aljand (EST), girlfriend of 100m medley ace Peter Mankoc, on 25.69. Christine Magnuson (USA) was next through in 25.76. her blog and video here. Entry to the semi closed at a 26.48 from Katerine Savard (CAN).

Men's 50m freestyle

Sprint emperor Cesar Cielo (BRA) got that crucial edge on the speediest shoal in town, his 21.06 ahead of Nathan Adrian (USA), 21.11, Fred Bousquet (FRA), 21.12, George Bovell (TRI) 21.23 a happier-looking Steffen Deibler (GER), 21.38, and Stefan Nystrand (SWE), 21.41. Down in the deep and also through to semis, Alain Bernard (FRA), 21.43, while the last two men in were Roland Schoeman (RSA), 21.70, and Nicholas Santos (BRA), 21.71. For those perusing the 50m result sheet, the DSQ of Ahmed Labeid Hamza, 19, removed him from the race at the start because he was wearing leggings. The leggings had a FINA approved label in them (it is allowed in open water) but officials were checking labels on suits by peering over the top of tracksuit pants without requiring swimmers to show that their suits complied fully with race pool rules on suit profiles. Perhaps the person who let the teenager out on deck should also have a DSQ placed by their name.

Women's 100m medley

Ariana Kukors (USA) set the standard for those in the hunt for gold tomorrow with a 59.14 championship record inside the 59.30 set by fellow American Jenny Thompson back in Hong Kong in 1999. Kukors was also well ahead of the closest to her, Evelyn Verraszto (HUN), on 1:00.01, a time matched by Jane Trepp (EST). The cut for semis was a 1:01.37 by Katharina Stiberg (NOR). Off the pace but worth noting their presence: Leisel Jones (AUS) on 1:02.33 in 27th and golden girl from day one, Mireia Belmonte (ESP), looking more tired after a 1:02.36 for 28th than she had after her brace of victories last night.

Women's 4x200m freestyle

The US led the way on 6:56.53, Garrett Weber-Gale the swiftest splitter on 1:43.38. Russia were not far behind on 6:57.48, followed by Germany, Paul Biedermann leading the way in 1:43.60. In the mix, France, Australia, China, the Czech Republic and Brazil, most with names to switch and speed left in the tank for tonight's final.

Women's 800m freestyle

The slowest heats, with the fastest eight on paper to come tonight, produce an 8:16.11 from Chen Qian (CHN), with Chloe Sutton (USA) on 8:16.54 and Coralie Balmy (FRA) on 8:16.73.

Finals start at 7pm local time.