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Sjostrom's Gauntlet To Federica: 1:55.23

Mar 5, 2012  - Craig Lord

In international finals at the Olympic test event in the London 2012 pool tonight, Sarah Sjostrom, of Sweden, clocked a 2012 world leading and second-best ever textile time of 1:55.23 to win the 200m freestyle in commanding style. 

A strong message to defending Olympic champion, whorld champion and record holder Federica Pellegrini and the likes of Missy Franklin, the American who already has the Italian in her sights and whose 1:55.06 in the relay lead-off at Shanghai world titles last year for the US tops the all-time best of textile suit speed.

The Swedish teenager, coached by Carl Jenner, racing in the new Arena Carbon-Pro that was unveiled at an informal briefing in London today, took an unassailable lead from go: on 26.71 at the first turn, she passed the half-way mark on 56.09 (29.38) and had her feet on the wall at the last flip in 1:25.54 (29.45) before pressing for home down a 29.69 last lap.

Come the big one back at the same pool in summer, the challenge on the clock will be the ability to race. Take these top two splits and ponder the ability to respond to events:

  • Franklin: 27.09; 56.54; 1:25.82; 1:55.06 (Shanghai 2011)
  • Sjostrom: 26.71; 56.09; 1:25.54; 1:55.23 (London test event 2012)

On 1:55.23, Sjostriom is 0.23sec inside Pellegrini's best-ever in textile. And on 56.79 in the 100m butterfly here this week, any move towards a starting block at the start of a 200m butterfly challenge will surely send a shiver up the spine of the best four-lappers in the world.

Rest easy for a little longer yon maidens of a world beyond Mary T and Susie O and followers on the chase of the pace of Liu Zige: Sjostrom has set the long 'fly aside until after London 2012 is done. "we'll see after the Olympics," said Sjostrom, confirming with a smile that she had no objection to taking on a 200m. "In the Olympics, the 200m free and 'fly are close on the programme," she explained. "I don't want to do it for now."  

On her freestyle effort of this evening, the 18-year-old who was European champion at 14 and world champion at 15, said: "I was pretty sure that I could do that time. It's hard to swim that event by myself. It's more motivating with people around me. I will have that at the Olympics."

Confirming her entry to a race with the likes of Pellegrini and Franklin, assuming they make it through the domestic selection process that Sjostrom no longer faces, the winner of the Olympic test events said: "I expect the 200m to be the hardest event at the Games to make the final in."

She will return to training knowing that in a week when Rebecca Adlington stood tall among Brits aiming to take ownership of the London Aquatics Centre, a part of this pool already feels an affinity with at leads one speedy visitor from overseas. 

"This was my last race in the pool. My next race here will be the prelims in the 100 'fly at the Olympics," said Sjostrom. Of her effort here so far this week, she said: "I can't be more happy with it."

SwimNews caught up with Sjostrom and Jenner in London today and will bring you more on their exploits, ambitions and success story soon.