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Seebohm Scorches 58.23 100 Back Opener

Jul 29, 2012

Olympic Games, London, Day 2 heats:

Nothing like a world record just missed to wake everyone up on the morning after what many are describing today as one of the most brutal opening days in the Olympic pool they could recall.

Australian Emily Seebohm sent smoke off the water with a 58.23sec Olympic record in the 4th heat of the women's 100m backstroke. The time fell just 0.11sec shy of the world mark held by Britain's Gemma Spofforth.

Seebohm looked stunned and shook her head as if to say "no way!" The 20-year-old, kept from her best last year by a bout of swine 'flu last year, said: "I did look at the 50m split and I was 0.1 under the world record and I was saying 'don’t get over your head, just keep going and go as hard as you can. All I wanted to do this morning was make it through and not miss out, not worry about world records. I saw a few that were really close yesterday and I didn’t want to be one of those. I know what it is like to make the semis and miss out."

She added: "My goal is to keep moving forward and maybe the world record in the final, who knows? It was definitely not the hardest I can go. But you never know what everyone else can do."

After recovering from swine 'flu she got straight back into training for London 2012. "My god," she said. "I trained very hard since coming back last year. And having all the disappointments of the last year I was keen to get going. I’ve been wanting to do it for so long. The time I did was incredible. It just shows that I wasn’t good last year and not at my best. I’m just happy that people know I’m still around and I’m still smashing it."

The first day of action threw at least one odd ball into the mix in every event, with world records holders and champions missing the cut for finals, Michael Phelps missing the podium and a 16-year-old from China, Ye Shiwen, racing as fast over the last 100m for gold in the 400m medley as Ryan Lochte did on his way to gold in the same event for men. 

Expect similar shocks as the meet unfolds, though this morning was a little more stable than it all felt yesterday, all the big guns through, 400m free champion Rebecca Adlington (GBR) and world champion and record holder Federica Pellegrini (ITA) cutting it close and qualifying  in lanes 8 and 1 respectively for a thriller-in-prospect. 

The big miss of the morning: Brazil. After having made the mistake in Shanghai 2011 by letting Cesar Cielo have a morning off, the coaches and whoever it was that thought it a good strategy, might have learned their lesson. But no: they did it again. Guess what? 9th again in the 4x100m free heats - Cielo can have the evening off too.

As Matt Grevers (USA), after fine efforts in the 100m back and 4x100m free, put it: "Everybody was swimming lights out, and there's always going to be new faces coming up, new people. You can't take making the finals for granted, so I'm going to have to work pretty hard tonight."

Day 2 heats:

Women's 100m backstroke

Well, that woke everyone up. Emily Seebohm (AUS) just clocked 58.23, an Olympic record, in the 4th heat of the 100m backstroke. The times is just 0.11sec outside the world mark held by Gemma Spofforth (GBR).

Spofforth, looking stronger than she has for a long time, was on 1:00.05 in the next heat, with Anastasia Zueva (RUS) on 59.88, Julia Wilkinson (CAN), also under the minute, Rachel Bootsma (USA) just over it.

Melissa Franklin (USA), who had been the swiftest in the world so far this year, cruised through in 59.37 at the helm of the last heat, with Belinda Hocking (AUS), on 59.61, Aya Terakawa (JPN) on 59.82. The cut off for the semis: 1:00.25.

"I made some little mistakes," said Spofforth, "my start wasn't great, I slipped on the blocks, my finish was awful. Lots of things can improve!"

2004 bronze medallist Laure Manaudou bottomed out at the end of the last heat in 1:01.03 - the Olympic final elusive in the event where she placed 8th last time round in Beijing. Pity that many French newspapers this morning had double page spreads on her.

The final tally saw both Canadians Wilkinson of Stratford, Ont. and Sinead Russell of Burlington (100.10) - who had swum in the same heat - through to the semis in 7th and 13th place respectively.

Men's 200m freestyle

The fourth heat got the qualifying process started: Danila Izotov (RUS) set the pace at 1:46.61 ahead of Britain's Robbie Renwick, 1:46.86, world record holder Paul Biedermann, of Germany, on 1:47.27, good enough to go through a day after he missed the cut for the 400m final. 

A hint of what the final holds tomorrow came next as two gold medal winners from day 1 bumped heads. China's Sun Yang, the morning after claiming the 400m crown, refused to give up when world champion Ryan Lochte, of America, drove off the last turn with a dolphin kick that have him a metre lead. Sun clawed back the deficit with every stroke and pipped Lochte, winner of the 400m medley last night, 1:46.24 to 1:46.45, those two the best qualifying times of the morning.

"I was aiming to finish first or second in the heats to qualify for the semi-final. I'll try to do my best, but the 200 freestyle is not my best event. It's more difficult for me than the 400 or the 1500," said Sun. But judging by how easy the first hundred looked, this event may soon be on his top list.

Lochte, who didn't get to bed until 2 am in the wake of his first gold medal performance last night, said he was pretty tired. "But it was a prelim swim so I'm not too worried," he added.

Asked to comment on Chinese gold medallist Ye Shiwen having swum a faster freestyle leg than he did on Saturday night, Lochte said, "Yeah, we were talking about that at dinner. It's pretty impressive. She's fast. if she was there with me, she might have bet me."

In the last heat, Yannick Agnel, the Frenchman who leads the world this year on the clock, clocked 1:46.60 ahead of 400m silver medal winner of yesterday Park Taehwan, of South Korea. The semis closed in 1:47.97.

Another edge-out for Canadian Blake Worsley of Victoria who missed the men’s 200 freestyle semifinal by only 0.17 seconds for 17th overall.  He won in his heat in 1:48.14.

"I was nervous but in that situation you have to make the best of it no matter how you’re feeling," said Worsley. "I’m happy with what I got out of myself."

Women's 100 breaststroke

Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania decided to set the bar early and burned up heat 4 in 1:05.56 to post a national record and the fastest time this season - just shy of the European record held by Yuliya Efimova (1:05.41). She left second placed Liesel Jones (AUS) far behind in 1:06.98.

Meilutyte, who is coached in Britain by John Rudd at Plymouth College, came into the meet with a 1:07.3. Now eight fastest ever, she is a contender for a medal in the final tomorrow after the semi-finals this evening. "I didn't expect that at all," she said. "I am in shock - I'm speechless."

In her wake this morning came world champion Rebecca Soni (USA), on 1:05.75, Yuliya Efimova, the European record holder from Russia, on 1:06.51, US Olympic trials winner Breeja Larson, all smiles on 1:06.58, and Olympic champion Jones.

The next test for Meiluytyte will be to hold her nerve in that company this evening when vying for a place in what would be her first Olympic final.

Jones, the defending champion, was asked about the taunts back home in a media spoke of her having put on flab. "It was a a bit hard," said Jones. "It's been a new challenge for me and I'd like to prove them wrong by swimming fast. It's the best thing that could have happened to me ... thanks a lot [media], you really fired me up."

Canadians Jillian Tyler of Calgary and Tara van Beilen of Oakville, Ont. went 1:07.81 and 1:07.85 to squeak into the semis in 15th and 16th place.

"It was a little bit of a different experience,’’ said Van Beilen of her Olympic debut. "I had never swam at this big of a meet so it was nice to get that first race off my chest.  There’s a lot of technical things I can work on.  It’s my fastest morning swim and I always swim faster at night."

Women's 400m freestyle

Rebecca Adlington set out on the defence of her 400m freestyle crown by trying to leave nothing to chance in the slowest of the fast heats with no competition to speak of.

The rest, knowing what she had done, produced the fastest qualification field in the history of the event to try to knock the British hope out. Adlington will race in the outside lane 8, the slowest of all qualifiers, though she had a one second grace on the first woman locked out. 

The crowd roaring as if the heat was the final, the 23-year-old from Nottinghamshire close to world record pace at 100m, on 58.66. The damage done, she settled into her rhythm two bodylengths clear of the chasing pack, on 2:00.80 at the half-way mark.

With 100m to go, the reigning champion of Beijing was 2sec clear of the next best on 3:03.53, close to the pace in which she raced to gold four years ago in China. Her job was now to bring it ohm for a place in the final. The crowd banging their feet into the flooring, sending a vibration through the stand, Adlington stopped the clock in 4:05.75, Chloe Sutton (USA) nearest to her in 4:07.07. 

Back in seventh place was Olympic bronze medallist of Beijing Joanne Jackson, on 4:11.50 and no longer a contender this times round.

In the next heat, Coralie Balmy, of France, scorched a 4:03.56, a time just shy of the 4:03.22 in which Adlington claimed gold in Beijing. Also inside the world 800m champion's time this morning were Canadian Brittany Maclean in a new Canadian record time of 4:05.06, and world champion and record holder Federica Pellegrini (ITA), on 4:05.30.

The last line-up took to the water knowing they had to race as though they were in the final. Camille Muffat, of France, got the touch in 4:03.29, Allison Schmitt, of America, on 4:03.31, Lauren Boyle, of New Zealand, on 4:03.63 and Lotte Friis, of Denmark, on 4:04.22. 

That left Pellegrini and Adlington, gold and silver ahead of bronze for Muffat at the world championships in Shanghai last year, on opposite sides of the pool for the showdown tonight.

Men's 100m backstroke

American Nick Thoman set the pace at 53.48 at the helm of the fourth heat ahead of Germany's Helge Meeuw, on 53.83, Russian Vladimir Morozov on 54.01. 

Camille Lacourt, world champion from France, took the pace on a touch to 53.51 in the next heat a hand ahead of Britain's Liam Tancock, on 53.86, a time that would end up eight best of the morning, the mid-point of the 16 qualifiers.

In the last heat, Matt Grevers, the American who three weeks ago at US trials in Omaha, became the fastest man ever in a textile suit, produced the only sub-53sec effort of the morning, on 52.92, closest to him China's Cheng Feiyi in 53.22. In a tight finish, Japan's Irie Ryosuke clocked 53.56, Dutchman Nick Driebergen 53.62.

 Canadian in the race Charles Francis of Cowansville, Que. made it through to the semifinals after ranking 13th in 54.08.

Men's 4x100m freestyle

A 47.35 warm-up split for James "The Missile" Magnussen ticked a few boxes: Australia stayed ahead of the USA, Russia, France and the rest in heats; The Missile is firing towards his targets, both as firestorm for the Dolphins in the relay this evening and the first Aussie gold since Mike Wenden in 1968 in the solo events.

James "The Rocket" Roberts clocked 48.22 second man in for Australia, with teammates Cameron McEvoy and Tommaso D'Orsogna set to give way to Matt Targett and Eamon Sullivan in the final tonight after a 3:12.29 conclusion this morning.

The USA also has a reserve of energy left: James Feigen, Matt Grevers, the 100m backstroke heats behind him and on 47.54 on freestyle, Ricky Berens, the 200m free heats behind him, and Jason Lezak, on 48.04 and overhauled by Magnussen this morning, combining for a 3:12.59 finish. Michael Phelps and Nathan Adrian wait in the wings (and possibly Ryan Lochte too).

Russia, with Andrey Grechin, Evgeny Lagunov, Sergei Fesikov and Nikita Lobintsev, came home in 3:12.77; France, consistent and missing Gilot and Agnel, on 3:13.38.

The big miss of the morning was a ninth place for Brazil, whose coaches may well be found banging their heads against a brick wall somewhere just beyond the Olympic Park this lunchtime. After having made the mistake in Shanghai 2011 by letting Cesar Cielo have a morning off, they might have learned their lesson. But no: they did it again. Guess what? 9th again - Cielo can have the evening off too.

Canada's team of Brent Hayden (Vancouver), Colin Russell (Burlington), Richard Hotness (Medicine Hat), and Tommy Gossland (Nanaimo), did not advance to the final - they clocked 3:16.42 to finish 10th overall.

Reports by Craig Lord and Karin Helmstaedt