GOTEBORG - The first night of finals at the 3rd Ericsson World Short Course Championships saw a great night of racing, with world records in the final two events of the evening.
The story of the morning had been world record-holder Denis Pankratov's failure to advance to the final of the men's 100 butterfly. The Russian surfaced unusually early on the first 25 and was unable to give his usual acceleration. Sweden's Lars Frolander stole the heat from lane 1, setting a new championship record of 52.10. While Pankratov refused to comment after the race, it was clear that he had not seen Frolander's lead.
In the final, the early leader, 18-year-old Nate Dusing (USA), was overtaken by a pumped up Frolander on the third length. In a very close finish, Frolander touched out Geoff Huegill (AUS). The moment was marred for the home crowd, however, as Australian Michael Klim's touchpad malfunctioned and he was given first place, and an unrealistically fast time of 50.1. There was momentary confusion as Omega timing's back-up video system was reviewed. Finally, Frolander's winning time of 51.95 was confirmed with Klim third in 52.02. Huegill posted an impressive 51.99 for the silver.
"Everybody with eyes could see that something was wrong with the times on the scoreboard," said the Swedish coach, Hans Chrunak, "and it was in a way a disappointment. After all, the difference on the board indicates around 3 metres in the water..."
Frolander's time, an "almost perfect" race, was the second fastest time ever.
"To tell you the truth, I should have been satisfied with the silver medal," he admitted. "It was quite impossible to say if I finished first or second, but that it was all wrong on the scoreboard was obvious."
Canadian men had a great showing in this event, with both a veteran and a rookie in the final. Eddie Parenti swam his best time in the morning (53.09) and bettered it again in the final to 52.71 for seventh. 19-year-old Garrett Pulle, in his first international appearance, followed Parenti's example, with a morning PB of 53.17, and an impressive 52.74 for eighth place.
Pankratov won the B final in 52.48.
The women's 200 butterfly was something new against the old tried and true. American Misty Hyman's underwater fish-kick was sufficient to gain the lead for the first half of the race, taking one stroke on the first length and then seven or eight in all subsequent lengths, kicking about one half of the total 200 m distance. But at the 125 m mark, Hitomi Kashima (JPN) took a slight lead and held it until the final length when veteran Limin Liu (CHN), swimming in lane one, moved ahead to win in 2:07.20. Kashima touched in 2:07.34 and Hyman in 2:07.54.
"I lost a little on my breakouts on the last 100," said a smiling Hyman afterward. "I took eight strokes instead of seven. I don't know if it was nerves or what, but it was fun though!"
Canada's Jessica Deglau improved yet again on her best time and was seventh in 2:10.73.
Defending world champion Gustavo Borges (BRA) was never threatened in the men's 200 freestyle, dominating the race from the first 50. New Zealand's Trent Bray was second, with Lars Conrad (GER) holding onto third from the 150. Borges' time of 1:45.45 was a personal best and a successful defence of his title from 1995.
"Sure, the last gold medal (in Rio) was pretty special because it was home in Brazil, there were 10,000 people, the sun and the beach...it was really nice. But I give full credit to this gold medal. This is a difficult year for swimming, after an Olympic Games. One of my goals after the Games was to have a good 1997, and I'm achieving that."
Of his history of coming third behind absent rivals Alex Popov (RUS) and Gary Hall (USA), Borges said, "I never swim to come third. I swim to win. Unfortunately at the Olympics I didn't win, but I'm training to 2000 with one goal in mind, to win the gold medal."
Bray's time was 1:45.81 and Conrad's was 1:46.44.
The women's 100 freestyle had Sandra Všlker of Germany as the early leader, splitting 25.23 at the 50. She was challenged on the last length by defending world champion Jingyi Le (CHN) and American veteran Jenny Thompson, who touched first in 53.46. Všlker held on to second in 53.50, with Le third in 53.72. For Thompson, who was swimming her first competition in short course metres, this was no doubt a sweet win over Le. "I'm actually pretty surprised that I won," she said. "I thought I was fading at the end."
The men's 400 individual medley was an easy win for Matthew Dunn (AUS). He had the lead from start to finish and his time of 4:06.79 was a new championship record. China's Xufeng Xie took the silver by overtaking Christian Keller (GER) on the freestyle leg. Xie's time was 4:12.52, an Asian record, while Keller tied for third with Ron Karnaugh (USA), a 30-year-old medical student. Their third place time was a very close 4:12.53. "I'm a little tired but feeling quite good considering it's the second fastest time I've ever done," said Dunn. "The last time I swam it I was just off the world record and it was a tough swim. I was hoping to go close to the world record but I think the race was missing that little something to push me at the end."
Emma Johnson (AUS) followed up Dunn's victory by battling her way to the gold in the women's 400 individual medley. She had the lead up to the 200 when Sabine Herbst (GER) made her move and edged ahead. With 50 metres to go, Johnson was 3/100 of a second behind, but pulled ahead on the last 50 to win in 3:35.18. Herbst took silver with 4:36.02, while defending world champion Joanne Malar of Canada had to settle for the bronze with 4:37.46.
The men's 4x100 medley relay was a battle between Australia (in the lead) and Russia, with Great Britain giving chase. The Aussies took the lead with Adrian Radley's backstroke leg and never lost it. Russia began closing the gap on the freestyle leg but Michael Klim, swimming his third event of the night, put in a huge effort (47.20) to put the Aussies beyond reach. Their final time of 3:30.66 was a new world record.
China easily won the women's 4x200 freestyle relay as the four women posted a new world record of 7:51.92.
And in a fitting climax for the first day's final, Sweden touched out Australia for the silver.