Great Start For Superfish: OR 400IM - 4:07.25
Craig Lord
Beijing. Day 1 Prelims: Michael Phelps in lane 4 for his first final; Jensen leads 400 free on 3:43.10; Dale Oen 59.41 OR 100 breast as first five men go under minute in Olympic waters; China free quartet downs Rome 1994 record

Beijing: Day 1 Prelims

Michael Phelps books place in lane four for his first final; Jensen leads blistering 400 free field on 3:43.10; Dale Oen 59.41 OR 100 breaststroke as first five men go under minute in Olympic waters; China free quartet downs Rome 1994 record

Men's 400m Medley

Michael Phelps (USA) started his Olympic 2008 campaign as he intends to go on - soaring ahead of rivals in the last heat of the 400m medley on his way to booking lane four for the first of what he intends to be eight finals. 

At 100m, he was 0.10sec inside world record pace on butterfly (55.28), then he was 0.02sec over his best speed (1:57.34)  after backstroke. The gulf to the pack opened, he took his foot off the gas but managed to cruise to a 4:07.82 Olympic record. Faster than Athens 2004 but down on his world record of 4:05.25. 

Phelps, smiling and at ease, said: "I'm pretty satisfied with the time. I didn't think I'd swim that fast in preliminaries. All I know is I want to be in the middle [lane] of the pool tomorrow.

"I saw the first few heats go out, and I kind of wanted to be the top seed for tomorrow, that is all I went out to do. It's going to be a tough race between three or four of us," added the 23-year-old American, on a trajectory to match or exceed the seven-gold-medal achievements of compatriot Mark Spitz in 1972, 

Luca Marin (ITA) and Gergo Kis (HUN) followed on in 4:10.22 and 4:10.66 respectively. 

That put them in close contention to what unfolded in the first of the fast heats: Laszlo Cseh (HUN) was a class apart on butterfly and backstroke but on breaststroke  Alessio Boggiatto (ITA) fought back into contention and then shadowed the Hungarian home. Cseh qualified in 4:09.26, to 4:10.68 for Boggiatto.

In the heat after, Thiago Pereira (BRA) led Ryan Lochte (USA) by a hand on 'fly, back and breast before the American put an end to doubt, cruising home to a comfortable 4:10.33. Brian Johns (CAN) came back hard on freestyle to touch out Pereira 4:11.41 to 4:11.74. With that time, the Brazilian was last man through to the final. A leap up on standards in Athens four years ago, when 4:16.77 was required to make the final. That would have placed 18th in Beijing. 

Cseh said the heats efforts promised an explosive final. "I think if someone wants to win this race they are going to have to swim under 4 minutes 05 seconds. "It was a good time, but I am tired now," Cseh said. "I will try everything I can to beat those guys. It's going to be very, very difficult."

 Lochte said that only perfection would deny Phelps, adding: "It's going to be a tough one for sure, but I will give him a run for his money."

Of note down in the pack: Bradley Ally (BAR) clocked  4:14.01, off an entry time of 4:20.99, while Gal Nevo (ISR) clocked 4:14.03, off an entry time of 4:24.17.

The heats saw the great Tamas Darnyi drop out of the all-time top 10. Here's how:

  1. 4:05.25 Phelps 2008
  2. 4:06.08 Lochte 2008
  3. 4:07.96 Cseh 2008
  4. 4:09.88 Marin 2007
  5. 4:10.66 Kis BEIJING
  6. 4:10.68 Boggiatto BEIJING
  7. 4:11.14 Pereira 2007
  8. 4:11.27 Vendt 2002
  9. 4:11.41 Johns BEIJING
  10. 4:11.76 Dolan 2000
  11. 4:12.36 Darnyi 1991
Women's 100m butterfly

Jessicah Schipper (AUS), Cristine Magnuson (USA) and Zhou Yafei (CHN) led qualifiers into the semi-final, with respective efforts of 57.58 for the Dolphin and 57.70 for the American and Chinese. Title favourite Libby Trickett (AUS) looked stiff and appeared to struggle a touch, finishing second in the last heat 0.07sec behind Aurore Mongel (FRA), 58.30 to 58.37. That left the Australian in 12th, while Jemma Lowe (GBR) was last into the semis on 58.49. In 2004, it took a 59.84 to make the semis. Lowe's time would have placed her fifth in the final in Athens. Out of the final and a noticeable miss, on 58.53 was Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL). Tao Li (SIN), former Chinese swimmer, clocked 57.77 to go through in fourth place.

Schipper, 200m world record holder, said: "A few things went wrong there but I'm still going in as fastest qualifier and I still have some things to improve on." Trickett was taken aback by the speed of the heats. "It's obviously a lot faster being at night and being an Olympic event it's going to be a lot tougher.

Men's 400m freestyle

The pace and depth of progress in the pool is running at levels rarely seen at any time before in history. The 400m freestyle is a case in point: Yury Prilukov, the European champion, was last into the final on 4:44.82. That would have placed him fourth by half a stroke in the 2004 final, for which it took 3:49.05 to qualify.

 The pressure of the host nation rests upon the shoulders of Zhang Lin (CHN) as he lays his head to rest tonight after a 3:43.22 Asian record that left him 0.17sec ahead of Park Tae-hwan (KOR), the world champion. Larsen Jensen (USA) raced into lane four with an American record of 3:43.10. Close  by were Nikita Lobintsev (RUS), who fell just 0.05sec shy of the European record, on 3:43.45, and Oussama Mellouli (TUN) on 3:44.45.

Next heat, and Grant Hackett (AUS) knew where he needed to be. He left nothing to chance, in the last few strokes making sure he outtouched Peter Vanderkaay (AUS), 3:44.03 to 3:44.22. The Australian looked up at the board and nodded, more to himself than anyone else. He was hardly out of breath. Among the casualities was 13th-placed Massimiliano Rosolino (ITA), Olympic silver medallist in 2000 but in 2008 on 3:45.57 was 0.85sec shy of what he needed for progression. Unlucky in ninth, with a huge pb that augurs well for his 1,500m was Ryan Cochrane (CAN), on 3:44.85.

Hackett noted the tight nature of all races when he said: "Just look at how close it is, it's anyone's at the moment and it's just a case of doing everything right on the day. There wasn't much between us, so it's going to be an interesting final tomorrow morning. I feel happy with that, it was good, comfortable, with a fast qualifying time."

Jensen said: "Park went pretty fast, it was probably his best time or right on it. I knew I'd have to do the same thing to take it back in my heat. I hope for the best tomorrow morning. I'm going to have a double shot espresso coffee and I'll be ready."

Park, 18, became South Korea's first swimming world champion last year. He said: "It was a relatively good performance, but I will have to wait and see how it will go now."

Zhang had calculated on having to give it his all: "I thought about it before the competition. I'm in the same heat with Park Tae-hwan and in the next heat there will be Grant Hackett, so I just have to try my best. Otherwise, I might not even make the final."

The impact on the all-time top 10 was undeniable, the list now all under 3:44:
  1. 3:40.08 Thorpe
  2. 3:42.51 Hackett
  3. 3:43.10 Jensen BEIJING
  4. 3:43.32 Zhang BEIJING
  5. 3:43.34 Park BEIJING
  6. 3:43.40 Rosolino
  7. 3:43.45 Lobintsev BEIJING
  8. 3:43.73 Vanderkaay
  9. 3:43.80 Perkins
  10. 3:43.92 Vendt
Women's 400m medley

 Neither of the two most-recent world record holders, Katie Hoff (USA) and Stephanie Rice (AUS) got lane four of the final. The big lane went to 15-year-old Elizabeth Beisel (USA), in 4:34.55 in heat 3 ahead of Alessia Filippi (ITA), on 4:35.11. Just 0.8sec behind Beisel on the clock was Hoff  in heat 5, with Rice on 4:35.11, matching the Italian, in heat 4.

Kirsty Coventry was 1.91sec inside world record pace after backstroke before Rice (AUS) opened up a 2m lead on breaststroke and cruised to the win. Watch for 14-year-old Li Xuanxu (CHN), who sprinted into contention over the last 50m freestyle and out-tocuhed Coventry 4:36.35 to 4:36.43 for a place in the final, much to the delight of the near capacity crowd at the 17,000-seater Water Cube.  

Last two into the final: Coventry in 7th and Hannah Miley (GBR), on 4:36.56. It took 4:45.16 to make the final in Athens, where Miley's time would have claimed the bronze medal. In Melbourne 2007, it took 4:44.34 to make the world final, and Miley's time would have placed her second. All that progress in so short a space of time. 

Men's 100m breaststroke

Alexander Dale Oen (NOR) cracked the Olympic record set by Brendan Hansen (USA) at 1:00.01 in Athens, with the first sub-minute effort in Olympic waters. Right behind his 59.41sec effort were times of 59.89 and 59.96 by Brenton Rickard (AUS) and Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) respectively. Five men dipped below the minute mark: defending champion Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) clocked 59.52 to progress smoothly in second place, with Hugues Duboscq (FRA) third on 59.67. Hansen looked sluggish and finished 10th equal overall, in 1:00.36. Last in was Mark Gangloff (USA) on 1:00.71.

Women's 4x100m freestyle

The Chinese quartet of Zhu Yingwen (54.53), Tang Yi (54.29), Xu Yanwei (55.13) and Pang Jiaying (52.83) set an Asian record of 3:36.78 to lead the way into the final. Pang's best of 54.17 from a standing start is fifth best ever behind Le Jingyi and the dope-suspended Lu Bin and two of Pang's Beijing teammates, Zhu and Xu. The record had stood to the dubious Golden Flowers of Rome 1994, at 3:37.91.

Germany, on 3:37.52, were second through, with Britta Steffen giving no clues as to her true form, racing a 54.17 split that clearly did not tax her, while Australia took third in the first heat on 3:37.81. That left the Dolphin 6th overall, the second heat won by the USA in 3:37.53, ahead of 3:37.61 for a Dutch quartet that included two of the world-record holding foursome. France's Celine Couderc (53.97), Hanna Shcherba-Lorgeril, Ophelie-Cyrielle Etienne and Alena Popchanka set a national record of 3:37.76. Canadians Julia Wilkinson, Erica Morningstar, Genevieve Saumur and Audrey Lacroix also broke their national record with a 3:38.82 effort and Britain's Fran Halsall (54.36), Caitlin McClatchey, Julia Beckett and Melanie Marshall rewrote their national record, in 3:39.18, to take the last place in the final. Jess Sylvester then swam off for a place in the final for Britain and swam faster than Beckett to book a ticket to a real Olympic experience.


The impact of the heats on the all-time top 10 saw the 3:40.57 at which the GDR demoted to 10th best:



  1. 3:33.62 NED
  2. 3:35.22 GER
  3. 3:35.48 AUS
  4. 3:35.68 USA
  5. 3:36.78 CHN BEIJING
  6. 3:37.76 FRA BEIJING
  7. 3:38.82 CAN BEIJING
  8. 3:39.18 GBR BEIJING
  9. 3:39.23 SWE
  10. 3:40.57 GDR 1986