HONG KONG - Two world records at the CTS 4th World Swimming Championships were the highlights of the first evening.
The spectacular setting of the Coliseum, with the same temporary pool first used in Goteborg two years ago and transported here at great expense, did not bring out the crowds. This multi-purpose facility used mostly for rock concerts, seating over 8,000 but only a third full, was a taste of things to come in our sport. More temporary pools in large capacity arenas are the way of the future.
Ian Thorpe (AUS) became the first FINA record holder in winning the men's 200 freestyle. His winning time of 1:43.28 erased the previous world best of 1:43.64 by Giorgio Lamberti (ITA) from 1990.
This race was a classic as Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED) tried to steal it from lane seven. However, Thorpe just poured it on in the second 100 and with his big finishing kick brought it home ahead of Michael Klim (AUS) and van den Hoogenband.
How the race was split:
"I planned to take it out hard," Thorpe said. "van den Hoogenband took it out even harder, which just played into my hand."
It was a race to remember among three great swimmers at the peak of their game.
The women's 200 fly had Petria Thomas (AUS) well in the lead for most the distance. But Mette Jacobsen (DEN), in perhaps a better-paced race, touched first with the narrowest of margins, 2:06.52 to 2:06.53.
"I'm happy with my swim," Jacobsen said. "Getting the European record is an added plus."
Thomas was not upset. "I did my personal best, so I have to be satisfied."
One of the bright up-and-comers is Yana Klochkova (UKR), who swam her best ever 400 IM without really being challenged by Joanne Malar (CAN), winner in 1995. Klochkova was in the lead throughout the four strokes and increased her lead on the freestyle leg. Her winning time was 4:32.32. Malar, in second with 4:34.90, was pleased. "It was my best time by over a second. I'm happy just to be competing in my third championships and better my personal best."
The men's 400 IM was not in doubt as Matthew Dunn (AUS) made it three in a row. He was never really pressured, although Marcel Wouda (NED) tried, but after the breaststroke leg Dunn coasted home in a championships record of 4:06.05. Wouda was second in 4:09.29, with Frederik Hviid (ESP) third in 4:10.92.
"I thought I went out a bit too hard," Dunn said. "I am pleased with my third win."
There were three stroke 50s during this evening session, where the semi-finals were held early and the final towards the end. That meant three all-out sprints this day.
In the women's 50 breaststroke, Masami Tanaka (JPN) upset Penny Heyns (RSA). Heyns won the prelims with 30.80 and then the semis with 30.88, but in the final could not hold off Tanaka, who went 30.80.
"I found it hard," Heyns said. "Three all-out swims was a bit much. It was fun to have to swim so fast."
The men's 4x100 free relay was a three-way battle between Australia, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The Australians prevailed as Ian Thorpe, with 47.77, and Michael Klim, with 47.18, anchored for a winning time of 3:11.21. Netherlands was second with 3:11.57 and Sweden third with 3:12.69.
The women's 4x200 freestyle resulted in the second world record of the evening as Sweden erased the old mark of 7:51.90 with their 7:51.70. The strong Swedish team was composed of Josefin Lillhage (1:57.80), Louise Johncke (1:59.01), Johana Sjoberg (1:57.27), and Malin Svahnstrom 1:57.62. Great Britain placed second in 7:53.98 and Australia third in 7:55.81.
Semi-finals were held in the men's 100 fly, and women's 100 free and 100 back, with the finals on the next day. The format will take some time to adjust to. Mixing semis and finals may not be the ideal solution as the momentum tends to slow during semis and rise during finals.