Day 5′s preliminary session will see the women join the men in the first of the two individual sprint freestyle races, with the heats of the women’s 100 free kicking things off. Ryan Lochte will also move into his very difficult double, beginning with the prelims of the 200 back and ending with his 200 IM showdown with Michael Phelps that is expected to be a much better matchup than was the 400 IM.
We’ll also get to see Rebecca Soni begin chasing her first gold of the meet in the 200 breaststroke, and the women’s 400 medley relay where the Americans are big favorites.
Women’s 100 Free – Prelims
This was a fantastic start to the women’s 100 free for the majority of the field, led by a personal best from China’s Yi Tang in 53.28: just missing a National Record. She swam a pretty fair race in terms of front-half, back-half speed, and will have a center lane headed into the semifinals.
The other middle lane will belong to Australia’s Melanie Schlanger in 53.50, which is a best time for her as well. She was followed very closely behind by the defending World co-champions Jeanette Ottesen and Aleksandra Herasimenia in 53.51 and 53.63.
The Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo, the heavy favorite, was 5th in 53.66. She didn’t look great, but we saw much better things from her in the relay, so she can be better. The Bahamas’ Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, an NCAA Champion and collegiate record holder, made it look like a decision to not fully taper for NCAA’s is paying off. She will be the 7th seed, winning the slowest heat, in a half-second drop of 53.72.
Britain’s Fran Halsall (54.02) and American Jessica Hardy (54.09) were the next two seeds. Most of the favorites, including Missy Franklin and Canada’s Julia Wilkinson were through safely as well in 54-lows.
Both of the Germans will move on, including the World Record holder Britta Steffen, but just barely. Her teammate Daniela Schreiber tied for 15th and last among qualifiers, but had a very interesting start. She used a 1960′s, standing start with her hands set behind her before launching them forward.
Russia’s Veronika Popova, who looked very good in the 200 free, was the biggest name not to qualify, placing four-tenths off of her 2011 best. 15-year old 100 breaststroke champ Ruta Meilutyte, came up short of her best time with a 56.33.
Men’s 200 Backstroke
The top four seeds in this men’s 200 back, all of whom were easily into the semi-finals in 1:56′s, took very different approaches to this 200 back prelim, though only China’s Fenglin Zhang seemed to have exerted much energy en route to a 1:56.71 for the 3rd seed.
Top-seeded Tyler Clary (1:56.24) went at a good clip for about 150 meters to build a big lead, but by the time he touched the final wall, he was down to nearly just a kick. Meanwhile, American Ryan Lochte (1:56.36) had a huge kickoff on the final turn, and with about 25 meters of hard swimming was able to take the 2nd seed. Ryosuke Irie (4th – 1:56.81) saved his push for the last 40 meters of the swim.
Based on what we saw, Lochte should still be in control for this gold, but he is working on a double so exerting as little energy as possible through these first two rounds will be his goal.
The 5th seed was a surprise from Hungarian Gabor Balog in 1:56.98 – a best time by a second-and-a-half. His teammate, and National Record holder, Peter Bernek is the 9th seed in 1:57.5.
Israel’s Yakov Toumarkin had a much better 200 back than 100, and safely advanced in 1:57.33. Mitch Larkin was the only Australian to move through as the 10th seed in 1:57.5. Others safely into the semi’s were Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki and Columbia’s Omar Pinzon.
Arkady Vyatchanin fell short of the final with a 1:58.69 for 17th. This is more heartbreak for the Russian who relocated to Florida to try and refind his form; after finishing 1 spot out of the 100 back final, he’s now 1 spot out of the 200 semifinal. Also missing were both British swimmers, as well as Spain’s Aschwin Wildeboer – their only male qualifier for this swimming competition.
Women’s 200 Breast – Prelims
Perhaps in an effort to make sure that everyone knows who’s in control of this 200 breast, and quash any designs on an upset early, American Rebecca Soni swam very hard to take the top seed in 2:21.40, the best time in the world this year.
She was positioned very differently in this 200 than in the 100, having led wire-to-wire after going out in 1:08.5. She likes to lead this longer race, though, so expect that to continue.
Pulling along with her, as we so often see in these early rounds, Denmark’s Rikke Moeller-Pedersen took 2nd in 2:22.69. That lops more than half-a-second off of her own Danish Record in the race.
Satomi Suzuki was a big heat winner with a 2:23.22 for the 3rd seed overall, followed by a big jump to American Micah Lawrence in 2:24.50.
The fastest Russian was Anastasia Chaun, who infamously missed the World Championships last year after a botched doping test left her with blood clots. She’s recovered and returned to training, and performed very well with a 2:25.39 for the 5th seed. Sweden’s Joline Hostman swam easily her best time since the rubber suits went away with a 2:25.44.
Others to move on include both of the South Korean swimmers, a good boost for the expansion of swimming in their country. South Africa’s Suzaan van Biljon was 9th; in 2008, she final’ed in the 100, but after a brief retirement to focus on schooling, she now looks like she could final in this 200 instead.
Morocco’s Sara el-Bekri was 10th in 2:26.04, and the other Russian, Yuliya Efimova, struggled again to tie for 14th in 2:26.83.
The most shocking miss was China’s Sun Ye, who was just 24th in 2:27.94. There were big expectations on her in this race: she was 5th at Worlds in the 100 last year, but was replaced in that race to focus on this 200. To miss by that badly will be a disappointment for her. Her teammate Ji Liping made the same move (except that she was bronze at the World Championships) and didn’t look great either, tying for 7th.
Men’s 200 IM – Prelims
So far, Ryan Lochte has not exerted much energy in little-more-than a warmup as he cruised to a second seed in this 200 IM with a 1:58.03 heat win. He pushed a little bit on the freestyle leg, and despite a lazy cruise into the wall, looked like he may have jammed a finger on his right hand a little bit, or perhaps broken a nail. It didn’t appear to leave him in too much pain, but it was enough to warrant his closer inspection after the finish, so something to keep an ear out for headed into tonight’s finals session.
The only swimmer better was Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh in 1:57.20. Cseh was the man who finished 2nd in a heat to Michael Phelps in the prelims of the 400 IM by just a tenth, which was enough to knock him out of the final. This swim showed he had no interest in being left out again.
Japanese 17-year old Kosuke Hagino, a bronze medalist in that 400, swam very well also in 1:58.22. Michael Phelps was just out-touched by Hagino by .02, finishing as the 4th seed in 1:58.24, and Thiago Pereira was 5th in 1:58.31, with neither seeming too concerned about these morning heats.
Chad le Clos certainly didn’t look as good in this 200 IM as he did in the 200 fly, but was till 11th in 1:59.45, with a 2:00.28 from Canada’s Andrew Ford taking 16th in another slow prelims round.
A huge surprise came from Hungary’s David Verraszto. He’s certainly better in the 400 IM, but he finished 2nd-to-last in this race in 2:04.53, and was never really in this race.
Women’s 800 Free Relay – Prelims
The Australians showed off their superior depth in this women’s 800 free relay prelims with a 7:49.44 to take the top overall seed. They were led by a trio of 1:57′s, and a 1:56.99 anchor from Blair Evans. That means that some very good swimmers will be left off of the finals, but the Australians needed this internal competition to dig out the best 4th leg to finish off the finals group if they hope to repeat for gold. The prelims splits:
1. Brittany Elmslie 1:57.50
2. Angie Bainbridge 1:57.70
3. Jade Neilsen 1:57.25
4. Blair Evans 1:56.99
The Americans were looking for two swimmers this morning that would join Allison Schmitt and Missy Franklin in finals, and they’ve found at least one in Shannon Vreeland. She split a 1:57.04 on the 2nd leg, which should seal up a spot for her in the final. The other spot isn’t as obvious; Dana Vollmer would’ve been expected to take it, as the 3rd-place finisher from Trials, but she anchored in only a 1:58.31. There is a chance she was told that the spot was hers, so that she should just ensure that the Americans won their heat after being given a big lead. Both Lauren Perdue and Alyssa Anderson out-split her though.
1. Lauren Perdue – 1:58.07
2. Shannon Vreeland – 1:57.04
3. Alyssa Anderson – 1:57.33
4. Dana Vollmer – 1:58.31
The Canadian women had a great morning swim to sit 3rd in 7:50.84. They will be able to sub in Julia Wilkinson for Amanda Reason in the final if they choose, and though Wilkinson is not a great 200 freestyler, she’s been swimming very well in this meet. It took a 7:47 to medal in Shanghai, so the Canadians will be looking for a few more seconds in finals.
Those bronze medalists from last year, China, didn’t seem to have a relay as good this year as they did last year after many changes, and that showed without Yi Tang on this prelims relay. They qualified only 6th in 7:53.66
Outside of the top two, who should be gold and silver in some order, the third-place position is wide open among the finalists that include Italy, France, Great Britain and Japan. Other great splits include France’s Camille Muffat in a 1:55.5 anchor, and Federica Pellegrini’s 1:55.4 for Italy. The look of the Italian and French relays are really encouraging.
The biggest surprise finishing out of the top 8 is Hungary. That country has struggled a lot at this meet, overall.