World records tumbled on the third night as the championships took on an unquestionable world class allure.
The evening started off with the women's 100 butterfly, where current world record-holder Misty Hyman (USA) met her challengers. Hyman, with her underwater kicking technique, had the lead for two and a half lengths, splitting 26.55 at the 50. But the field closed in on the last length: Jenny Thompson (USA) moved into the lead by half a length and Huijue Cai (CHN) also touched ahead of Hyman, who had to settle for third. The existing world record of 58.29 was bettered by the first four finishers. And it is worth mentioning that all eight finalists were well under the minute mark.
The new record time by Thompson was 57.79, with Cai in 57.92, Hyman at 57.95 and Limin Liu, the champion from 1995, in 58.26. Fifth-place Martina Moravcova (SVK) set a new European record of 58.58.
Thompson said afterward, "I was really excited and pumped up by the crowd, even though they were cheering (for Sweden's Johanna Sjoberg). I just tried to use their energy and make it work for me."
Former record-holder Misty Hyman took a lot more fly strokes on the surface than usual and as a result was beaten by the better surface flyers. A small consolation for Misty - her 50 split was a new world record. Her time of 26.55 bettered the existing time of 26.56 of Angela Kennedy (AUS) from 1995.
"Great time," Hyman said, "but I'm not satisfied. I was going for the gold and wanted to do better."
The men's 200 fly was a very tight race, and once again Denis Pankratov was not in it. For most of the eight lengths James Hickman (GBR), Denis Silantiev (UKR), and Scott Goodman (AUS) went stroke for stroke. Hickman, who had a brilliant split in Britain's medley relay, had the strongest finish and touched ahead.The winning time was 1:55.55, with Silantiev second in 1:55.76 and Goodman third with 1:55.94.
"I felt really confident," Hickman said. "I thought I was going to have to be faster than this. But I think everyone was being cautious about the race, but they came back well in the second half. I thought, if I can just get this last turn and make it one of my great ones, I can win this. And I did!"
Once again Canadians held their own in this event, with Shamek Pietucha qualifying second in the morning (1:56.04) and Eddie Parenti seventh (1:57.73). The final shakedown saw Pietucha finish fourth (1:56.55) and Parenti sixth (1:57.01).
After her triumph in the 200 freestyle the night before, Claudia Poll's 400 freestyle very nearly defied description. It was the perfect race, beautifully split: after the initial length's 28.44, she held 30s for the next seven 50s. A textbook case of even pacing. The world best time of 4:02.05 that stood for 10 years (held by Astrid Strauss of East Germany) was finally erased with Poll's world record of 4:00.02. It was a performance that brought the house down.
Poll became a double world record-holder on consecutive nights.
"I knew I could go under 4:05 because I went several of them during the World Cup," Poll said. "We planned to get the record but didn't think four minutes was possible. I almost did 3:59! If I had known how close I wasÉ!"
The silver went to Natasha Bowron (AUS), whose remarkable 4:05.76 was lost in the excitement, and Kerstin Kielgass (GER) took the bronze in 4:07.13.
Kielgass was not happy. "I have problems with a cold, and a tough time with the dry air in the arena. It is hard to race with those conditions."
The men's 100 freestyle was never in doubt as Francisco Sanchez (VEN) took off with a quick turn-over, taking the lead from the start and holding on to the finish. The longer-stroking Gustavo Borges (BRA) closed toward the finish but couldn't raise his stroke rate sufficiently. Sanchez's winning time was 47.86. Borges posted 48.16 and Michael Klim (AUS) was third with 48.21.
The women's 100 breaststroke was the second gold for Kristy Ellem (AUS), already winner of the 200. It was a very close race with Ellem surging to first place on the last strokes. Alicja Peczak (POL) took the silver in 1:08.33, and Svetlana Bondarenko (UKR) the bronze in 1:08.39.
Canadian rookies Danica Wizniuk and Tara Sloan finished sixth (1:08.88) and eighth (1:09.20) respectively.
The men's 200 breaststroke was a strategic race; eventual winner Alexander Goukov (BLR) paced it perfectly with a slow turnover up to the 125. He gradually increased the rate to move into the lead on the final length. His winning time was 2:09.25. Andrei Korneev (RUS), who had the lead for seven lengths, was a very close second in 2:09.28. Jens Kruppa (GER) took the bronze in 2:10.53.
The women's 4x100 free relay was a two-team battle between Germany and China, who seemingly took off the brakes and went for it all the way. Jingyi Le led off with 53.32, a time that would have won the individual event, and Chao Na split 54.73, Ying Shan 53.55 and Yin Nian 52.95. Sandra Všlker, Germany's anchor, split even faster at 52.75.
The Chinese set a new world record of 3:34.55, with Nian just touching out the powerful Všlker. Germany's time of 3:34.69 was also under the old record of 3:35.97, and was therefore a new European record. The Swedes took the bronze in 3:38.07.