The Harvest Is In: Time To Feast
Craig Lord
The Water Cube is ready and it looks fantastic. We are in for some of the most thrilling racing ever seen over the next nine days of competition in the pool


So, the harvesters are grinding to a halt, returning to the yard, the festival is upon us, the feast nears. The first session of heats is upon us - and it feels a little odd, to be honest - 6.30pm start. That aside, the Water Cube is ready and it looks fantastic. We are in for some of the most thrilling racing ever seen over the next nine days of competition in the pool. 

  First on deck this evening will be Zhou Kai, a swimming judge from the earthquake-hit province of Sichuan. He's been chosen as starter for the men's races this evening at the Water Cube - and the 400m medley is first up, heat two offering the first glimpse of the medal contenders in the form of Laszlo Cseh (HUN), with Thomas Haffield (GBR) and Alessio Boggiato (ITA) either side of him. 

 "When I announce 'take your mark', the swimmers will jump off to the most exciting races in their lives. It's both an exciting and demanding job," said Zhou Kai. "My job is to be truly professional and precise. I wouldn't want to see any swimmers foul in their starts." Neither would they.

   It took 4:16.77 to make the 400 medley final in Athens. Tee-hee. That would rate 17th best on the current world ranking for 2008. Time to move on. Ryan Lochte (USA) is sandwiched between Thiago Pereira (BRA) and Riaan Schoeman (RSA) in heat three, before Superfish launches himself on a trajectory to a place among the stars as the greatest Olympian there ever was. Michael Phelps (USA) has Luca Marin (ITA) and Gergo Kis (HUN) either side of him. 

  Another multi-eventer is next up at the start of a run of events that feature Aussie favourites. Libby Trickett (nee Lenton) goes in the last of seven heats of the 100m butterfly and has teenage terrors from Britain either side of her: Jemma Lowe and Fran Halsall. A good seeding for the youngsters on the way to the semis. 

  Grant Hackett (AUS) has Yury Prilukov (RUS) and Peter Vanderkaay (USA) either side of him in the last of five heats of the 400m free. Larsen Jensen (USA) is sandwiched between Massimiliano Rosolino (ITA) and Oussama Mellouli (TUN), while the first of the fastest heats is led by Park Tae-hwan (KOR), with Federico Colbertaldo (ITA) and Zhang Lin (CHN) either side of him.

   In the 400m medley, Katie Hoff (USA) starts a ferocious campaign in the middle of Hannah Miley (GBR) and Katinka Hosszu (HUN); Stephanie Rice (AUS) has Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) and Li Xuanxu (CHN) either side of her (watch for Li - she is just 14 and on the move); Elizabeth Beisel (USA) has Alessia Filippi (ITA) and Yana Martynova (RUS) beside her.

  There are nine heats of the 100m breaststroke, with Brendan Hansen (USA) in last and Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) going just before him. The semis tomorrow morning will give a clearer picture of who is on form and who is not.

    Beyond the pool, the Games got underway with news of another Greek athlete tested positive for doping, while Chen Xiexia of China won gold in the women's 48-kilogram weightlifting to give the hosts a good start and Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic had the distinction of winning the first of 302 golds to be awarded with victory in the 10-meter air rifle.

The Greek national Olympic committee reported that Tassos Gousis, 29, who competes in the 200m on the track, tested positive for the steroid methyltrienolone on Monday. He has been sent home from a pre-games training camp in Japan after being informed of the result.