Day 2-Heats: WR for USA Relay, Jones at 1:05.64, and only sub 4:05 makes women's 400 final
Tonight was the night of the forgotten…those swimmers who either could be swimming or should be swimming but aren't. From the men's 100 back, which is the most competitive event in the world, to the women's 100 breast, which has the top Americans sitting at home, tonight's session really had me wondering: how can a 9 day program, meant to crown the greatest swimmers in the world, leave me wanting more?
Women's 100 Back
The top 10 female performers in this event all come from times posted in 2008, which says a lot about how this event is drastically changing. For years, Natalie Coughlin (USA) was the sole woman under 60, now there over 10. Haley McGregory (USA) is the second fastest woman in the world in this event, but she isn't here as she didn't make US team. Of course that doesn't mean anyone will have an easy go of it.
Getting things started in an unseeded heat was Julia Wilkinson (CAN) who dropped over a second off her best and the national record with a 1:00.38. Then the Olympic Records began to fall. Up first was Anastasia Zueva (RUS) in 59.61, then it was Reiko Nakamura (JPN) in 59.36, and finally, Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) in a near World Record of 59.00. Coughlin was the only other swimmer under 60, her time of 59.69 looked solid.
The 4 women under 60 stack up in very different ways: Zueva had a terrible touch so she will be faster; Nakamura maintained her stroke and kick throughout; Coventry is coming off a stellar 400IM this morning but still motored past Coughlin; and Coughlin looked strong especially on her underwater kick, but her turnover was no match for Coventry.
"I kind of expected that with preliminaries at night and finals in the morning, subconsciously you are trying really hard because it's night," said Coughlin. "Actually so far, I kind of like evening preliminaries. It gives me a good night's rest to be ready for the finals."
"I didn't have any part of the race in which I sped up particularly," said Nakamura. "I kept the tempo all the way to the end. I think I have to improve my time from heats to the semi into the final. The level of racing is quite high, so it's going to be tough."
Men's 200 Free
Four of the top 10 male performers of all time are here in Beijing but not swimming this event: Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED) who is 3rd fastest all time, Grant Hackett (AUS) who is 5th, Ryan Lochte (USA) who is 6th, and Klete Keller (USA) who is 8th. This leaves a wide open field for the silver and bronze if, as predicted, Michael Phelps wins gold. He was second in his heat with a 1:46.48 behind a great performance by Dominik Meichtry (SUI) who dropped his personal best by almost 2 seconds to touch first in 1:45.80.
"Tonight I just raced because all I wanted to do was make it to tomorrow, to conserve energy and make it to the final," said Phelps. "I need to bank as much rest as possible and as much sleep as I can and not get run down. This morning was pretty emotional."
Canadians Brent Hayden (CAN) and Colin Russell (CAN) swam well, finishing 2nd and 3rd in their heat with 1:46.40 and 1:46.58 respectively. Hayden's time is a new Canadian record and has him sitting in 3rd going into the semi, while Russell is 5th. Their heat was won by Jean Basson (RSA) in 1:46.31.
It took a 1:47.81 to make top 16.
Women's 100 Breast
With Jessica Hardy (USA) (ranked 3rd) out after a doping infraction and Tara Kirk (USA) (ranked 4th) shafted and left off the US squad, the Aussie women are the clear leaders.
Leisel Jones (AUS) leads the way with her 1:05.64 Olympic Record, followed by Yuliya Efimova (RUS) in 1:06.08, a new European Record. "I felt very strong," said Jones, "but I wasn't concerned about outcomes or times. I certainly wasn't even exerting myself. It was quite nice. I wasn't even puffing at the end. It felt like training actually…I was just out there having a cruisy swim."
Tarnee White (AUS) sits back in 7th with a 1:07.83. "I was just concentrating on not getting too hyped up, getting the emotions out of the way," said White. "I think I was a bit too relaxed. Everyone was up on the blocks and I was like 'oh'."
Rebecca Soni (USA), replacing Hardy, swam well with her 1:07.44. "It felt pretty good. It was a little off my best, but it was good for preliminaries," said Soni. In regards to the Hardy-Kirk affair she said, "…it's a pretty awkward situation, but I'm just doing what I can."
Men's 100 Back
Here is yet another event where many of the best in the world aren't even swimming. In what is the most competitive event in the world, the American men occupy 7 of the top 8 spots in the world this year. New World number 2 Nick Thoman (USA) swam a 52.92 last week at the US Open in Minneapolis, but finished 6th at US Trials. Randall Bal (USA) also has the unfortunate position of being American and thus victim to the Trials process. He finished 4th in Omaha and is also not here, despite positing a 53.09. Phelps posted a 53.01 in '07 and a 53.42 this year, he chose not to swim, while Lochte was 3rd at the Trials with a 53.37.
That leaves World Record holder Aaron Peirsol (USA) and Matt Grevers (USA) to battle it out for the medals. Grevers broke the Olympic record in his heat with a 53.41, while Peirsol looked easy at 53.65.
Second seed, Helge Meeuw (GER) failed to advance with his time of 54.86. "I'm so disappointed," said Meeuw. "I don't know what happened. I'm so sorry. I don't know what I'll do after this."
Women's 400 Free
Four years ago the winner of this event in Athens was Laure Manaudou (FRA). Her winning time: 4:05.34. Flash forward 4 years and that time wouldn't even make finals! It took a 4:04.93 to get into the final and that berth goes to Manaudou who will have to defend her title from lane 8.
Top seed is World Record holder Federica Pellegrini (ITA) in 4:02.19. She just out-touched a fast finishing Rebecca Adlington (GBR) in 4:02.24, a new personal best. Katie Hoff (USA), who is coming off her 400IM finals from this morning looked fresh as a daisy. She won her heat in 4:03.71, which was the Olympic Record for 5 minutes (breaking Janet Evans' 4:03.85 record from 1988). "I was disappointed this morning," said Hoff, "but I was right on my time so there was really nothing more I could do. I've just got to come back tomorrow and do a good time…getting bronze still leaves me hungry for the rest of the week."
Steph Horner (CAN) dropped almost 3 seconds off her best to a 4:07.45 for 11th spot. She just missed the Canadian record, but looked great. This is certainly an event where she is just getting started.
Men's 4x100 Free
With a virtual B team, the American men still broke the World Record they set at Pan Pacs in '06 with a 3:12.23. All but 1 man will be replaced for the final tomorrow.
France broke the European record in their heat with a 3:12.36, and have rested Alain Bernard for the final. Frederick Bousquet looked as if he was hit by one of the lightening bolts that could be heard all night here at the Water Cube, he anchored with a 46.63!
Filippo Magnini (ITA) anchored their team in 46.84 and they sit 4th. The Aussies are 3rd, while Canada is 7th. Their time of 3:13.68 is a national record by over 2 seconds. Hayden's lead out time of 48.28 was also a Canadian Record. The Brits, who did not originally qualify a 4x100, got a lane for the final after Simon Burnett and Adam Brown were added to the team.