Day 2 semi-finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai
Men's 200m freestyle
In the first semi, Yannick Agnel (FRA) left nothing to chance with a 1:45.62 win over 400m winner here on Sunday, Park Tae-hwan (KOR), on 1:46.23, with Nikita Lobintsev (RUS), Sebastiaan Verschuren (NED) on 1:47.34 and 1:47.52 ahead of Ross Davenport (GBR) and Kenrick Monk (AUS), on 1:47.76 and 1:47.86.
The target and stage was set for a sizzling second semi, with the echoes of the Eternal City doubtless ringing in the ears of Michael Phelps (AUS) and Paul Biedermann (GER), with Ryan Lochte (USA) in the middle.
For the first 100m, it was Lochte, Phelps and Biedermann, in that order, on 24.55, 24.72, 25.00 then 51.87, 51.91 and 52.03.
Biedermann made his move off the wall and down the third lap struck out ahead half a stroke ahead 15m from the last turn. Somehow, Lochte drew level and got his feet to the wall first, the order now 1:19.47 to 1:19.52 to Lochte and Biedermann, with Phelps, the Olympic champion, slipping to fifth in 1:20.08. The argument was not over and as Biedermann and Lochte brought their races to a close in 1:45.93 and 1:46.11 respectively, Phelps had no intention of missing the rematch and got his hand to the wall in third, a 1:46.91 good enough for fifth overall.
The draw means that Agnel, Biedermann and Lochte occupy the middle, with Park next to the German and Phelps next to his teammate three lanes away from his nemesis of Rome.
"It's going to be down to the last 50," Phelps said. "There are some guys that have front-half speed and some guys that close extremely well. You can probably guarantee that it's going to be a tight group." Lochte predicted a "dogfight" in which he would work with his teammate: "I'm going to kind of move over to the lane line and draft off him. Hopefully we can put something together and pull out a 1-2 race."
Biedermann forecast a "big pressure" final but looked as relaxed as the next man, who happened to be Phelps, who summed up: "As long as I have a lane, that's all I need. I have my strategy that I want to do tomorrow. I tried to conserve as much as I could."
Said the German holder: "I feel fine and am excited about the race tomorrow. It's going to be tough. All the people here are swimming for the Olympics next year."
Women's 100m breaststroke
Olympic champion Leisel Jones (AUS) skipped Rome 2009, took a race break and then eased her way back into international waters last year. Today, in 1:06.66, she staked her claim to lane 5 for a showdown next to the world 100m and Olympic 200m champion Rebecca Soni (USA), who crushed event the best of the second semi of contenders with a 1:04.91 hammer blow. Even in shiny suit in Rome she did not go much faster, the championship record (all have so far survived) a 1:04.84. It is Soni's second 50m that may prove so lethal for Leisel, though the Australian may have a surprise in mind. 30.78 to 31.08 were the first 50m splits for the American and Australian, while Soni left nothing to chance with a storming 34.13sec drive home, to Jone's 35.64 at a cruise.
Closest to the battle anticipated, Ji Liping (CHN), on 1:07.09, Rikke Pedersen (DEN), 1:07.13, Sun Ye (CHN), 1:07.25, with Jilian Tyler (CAN), Yuliya Efimova (RUS) and Moniek Nijhuis (NED) completing the line up for the final tomorrow.
Men's 100m backstroke
Junya Koga (JPN) became the fourth defending champion to relinquish his crown of Rome, as he crash out in 14th place in semis on 54.16.
At the top end of the field, Jeremy Stravius (FRA) continued to make progress, a 52.76 for lane 4 in the final setting all others the target for tomorrow. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) went through in 53.05, in third the second Frenchman who has taken from the aesthetic blueprint for backstroke technical tips, Camille Lacourt, on 53.09. David Plummer (USA), Helge Meeuw (GER), Nick Thomas (USA), Liam Tancock (GBR) and Gareth Kean (NZL) squeezed in between 53.30 and 53.69.
Women's 100m backstroke
The defending champion Gemma Spofforth (GBR) gone in heats after a couple of days of sickness in the midst of a troubled year, the hunt began for the new queen.
Or perhaps make that a former one, Natalie Coughlin taking lane 4 in 59.38, 0.03sec ahead of Anastasia Zueva (RUS), with Zhao Jing (CHN) a further 0.03sec away. Also in form in semis that produced a healthy nine sub-minute efforts, were Emily Seebohm (AUS), Sinead Russell, on 59.68, her second Canadian record of the day, Belinda Hocking (AUS), Elizabeth Simmonds (GBR) and Aya Terakawa (JPN). The only 59er locked out was Shiho Sakai, on 59.94.