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200 Free Guns Loaded; Sickly Spofforth Out

Jul 25, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 2 Preliminaries, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

The second day of action is underway, the first event has claimed its first victim. Gemma Spofforth's world-title defence came to a sad end this morning when the world record holder missed the cut for semis and then, fighting back tears with the Britain team doctor alongside her, revealed that she had been wiped out by a food poisoning on Saturday night. 

Spofforth said: "I've had a bad couple of days after getting food poisoning on Saturday night. It's been a bad year all round really: I've struggled to find the motivation and this will be a kick up the butt for next year." Spofforth, who lost her mother to cancer in 2007, suffered another bereavement in the family when her father's new partner died of the same illness in March this year while Spofforth raced at British trials for Shanghai.

Dr Ian Gordon, the Britain team doctor, was there to meet Spofforth as she emerged from her heat. He confirmed that the European champion had a stomach problem, the source of which it was too early to confirm: "It is acute. She's been up all night ...". Spofforth said that it had "never crossed my mind not to race", that having been what she came here for.

In other action, the much-awaited 200m freestyle clash is on a roll, Lochte, Verschuren, Biedermann, Park, Phelps and Agnel leading the way to the semis. Rebecca Soni threw down a 1:05.54 gauntlet in the 100m breaststroke and French teammates Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius were at the helm of qualifiers in the 100m backstroke. Lotte Friis (DEN) claimed lane 4 for the final of the women's 1500m free tomorrow, in 16:00.47.

Prelim race reports:

Women's 100m backstroke

Olympic champion Natalie Coughlin (USA) cruised through at the helm on 59.73 in the sixth heat ahead of Aya Terakawa (JPN) and Elizabeth Simmonds (GBR) on 59.95 and 1:00.38 respectively.

Also inside the minute were Sinead Russell, the Canadian swimmer whose father's lifetime ban by FINA in cooperation with other sports organisations was upheld in 2009, and Emily Seebohm (AUS), on 59.80 in heat 7 and 59.87 in heat 5 respectively. Russell's time established a Canadian record, the first sub-minute effort, inside the 1:00.21 held by Katelyn Murdoch since 2009, and a step up from a previous personal best of 1:00.56.

Just outside the minute, the superpowers stacked up their second swimmers, Elizabeth Pelton (USA) on 1:00.19, Belinda Hocking (AUS) on 1:00.23, ahead of Japan's second shot Shiho Sakai, on 1:00.34. Spofforth finished 23rd on 1:01.89. She was not the only big miss, among the fallen Gao Chang (CHN), 22nd on 1:01.84, Mercedes Peris (ESP), Melissa Ingram (NZL) and Jenny mensing (GER).

Qualifiers: 59.73 - 1:01.39 - Coughlin, Russell, Seebohm, Terkawa, Pelton, Hicking, Sakai, Simmonds, Van Rouwendaal, Zhao, Wilkinson, Zueva, Da Rocha, Prinsloo, Zevina, Avramova. 

Men's 200m freestyle

The stage is set for a thrilling qualifier in semis tonight, with all big guns safely through. The cards started to stack up from heat 6, when Yannick Agnel (FRA) stopped the clock at 1:47.11 ahead of a 1:47.88 for Robbie Renwick (GBR). 

The next heat featured Americans Ryan Lochte, world short-course champion, and Michael Phelps, Olympic champion, and the heir apparent to Hoogie's Orange thrown, Sabastiaan Verschuren (NED). All looked to be in control of their pace, the Dutchman ahead for three laps, the Americans playing cat and mouse, before Lochte sprinted to a 1:46.34 finish that got his hand to the wall 0.19sec ahead of Verschuren's, with Phelps just 0.45sec away and Switzerland's Dominic Meichtry in the mix at 1:47.38.

In the last of eight heats, defending world champion, record holder and bronze medallist in a thrilling 400m final yesterday, Paul Biedermann (GER) swam almost identical splits to those of the man who stole his 400m crown, Park Tae-hwan (KOR) and Phelps on his way to a 1:46.56 effort that sent him through to semis third fastest. Park was next through just 0.07sec away, with Ross davenport (GBR) and Danila Izotov (RUS) on 1:47.59 and 1:47.72 respectively. Kenrick Monk (AUS) closed the door to the semis at 1:48.42.

Qualifiers: 1:46.34 - 1:48.42 - Lochte, Verschuren, Biedermann, Park, Phelps, Agnel, Meichtry, Davenport, Izotov, Fraser, Renwick, Shapira, Kobori, Lobintsev, Oliveira, Monk

Women's 100m breaststroke

Defending world champion Rebecca Soni (USA) threw down the gauntlet with a powerful morning wake-up call for her rivals: 1:05.54 - and that in the last of six heats when she knew that 1:07.37, by Satomi Suzuki (JPN) in heat 4, was fastest so far and anything a stroke inside 1:09 would be fine. 

What was once a time in which Olympic titles would have been won by some margin, until Leisel Jones (AUS) clocked 1:05.17 for the 2008 Olympic crown (Soni second in 1:06.73), is now the stuff of warm-ups for the American, who was followed by Ji Liping (CHN), on 1:07.10, and Sarah Poewe (GER), on 1:07.38. Jilian Tyler (CAN) took heat 5 ahead of Jones, 1:07.67 to 1:07.72, with Rikke Pedersen (DEN) close on 1:07.80. Yuliya Efimova (RUS) was also among those through to semis, in 1:07.81 in heat 4. 

Qualifiers: 1:05.54 - 1:08.63 - Soni, Ji, Poewe, Suzuki, Tyler, Jones, Pedersen, Johansson, Efimova, Sun, Pickett, Nijhuis, Garcia, Beard, Chocova, Hoestman.

Men's 100m backstroke

No big misses, with French teammates Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius leading the way with respective efforts of 53.30 and 53.34 in the 7th and 6th heats.

David Plummer (USA) was closest, on 53.68 behind Lacourt, with Liam Tancock (GBR) on 53.84 behind Stravius to go through in fourth place. Stanislav Donets (RUS), Ben Treffers (AUS), Gareth Kean (NZL) and Ryosuke Irie (JPN) followed with times inside 54sec. 

Between Irie's 53.99 and the 54.32 of his teammate and defending champion Junya Koga were six others men, the champion of Rome spared a swim-off by 0.11sec, Guy Barnea (ISR) and Sun Xiaolei (CHN) both on 54.43 and waiting in the wings to go again.

Qualifiers: Lacourt, Stravius, Plummer, Tancock, Donets, Treffers, Kean, Irie, Toeckel, Thoman, Wildeboer, Meeuw, Grigoriadis, Driebergen, Koga plus swim-off winner, to follow).

Women's 1,500m freestyle

With two heats ahead of her, Grainne Murphy (IRL) and Keri-Anne Payne (GBR) 10km champion here in Shanghai, knew the going would be tough - and so it proved. At 16:14.81 for the Irish change and 16:23.11 for the Brit they would find themselves in 10th and 12th overall a little over half an hour later. 

The third heat saw Shao Yiwen (CHN) raise the roof with a 16:01.72 ahead of 16:03.50 for Kristel Kobrich (CHI), open water ace Melissa Gorman (AUS), on 16:07.39, and Erika Villaecija, the Spaniard who also raced open water, on 16:12.45, leaving the winner of heat 2 in fifth and likely to struggle.

World 800m champion Lotte Friis (DEN) led the way on 16:00.47 ahead of former world champion and current world record holder Kate Ziegler (USA), on 16:02.53, with Wendy Trott (RSA) on 16:05.63 and Li Xuanxu (CHN) on 16:05.82. On 16:13.20, Chloe Sutton (USA) was the first for those locked out.

Qualifiers: Friis, Shao, Ziegler, Kobrich, Trott, Li, Gorman, Villaecija.

Relay swim-offs: 

In a three-man race, Eric Shanteau emerged as the main man for the breaststroke leg of the medley real.