Day 5-Heats: Soni 2:22.17; Lochte 1:56.29 back and 1:58.15 IM
Nikki Dryden
Beijing-The Frenchwomen broke an Olympic Record in the 4x200 as did Rebecca Soni in the 200 breast. It was a good night after an amazing morning.

Beijing-After 6 World Records this morning, tonight's heat session would never compare. Of course there was fast swimming and many events have produced semi-finals that are the fastest ever. The Frenchwomen broke an Olympic Record in the 4x200 as did Rebecca Soni in the 200 breast. It was a good night after an amazing morning.

Women's 100 Free

At 18, Hanna-Maria Seppala (FIN) won the 2003 World Champs in this event. In Athens she was 12th.  Today, she posted the fastest time in the heats with a 53.67. Seppala out-touched former World Record holder Britta Steffen (GER) who was 3rd in this event at last year's World Champs and holds the Olympic Record with her 53.38 leadoff in the 4x100 relay. Her time tonight: 53.67. Third in the same heat was Marleen Veldhuis (NED) who won Olympic gold this week as anchor of the Dutch 4x100 free relay. Her time: 53.76.

"I am satisfied with my 2nd place, but I'm not satisfied with my performance," said Steffen. "If I can make the finals I will be satisfied by setting a personal best, even if I can't get a medal."

In the final seeded heat, Natalie Coughlin (USA) looked fresh with a 53.82 win over Libby Trickett (AUS) in 53.99. "53 something, that's amazing in itself," said Trickett. "To think that [time] won it all in Sydney, but that's what it will take just to get to the final here. Hopefully, I'm making the finals this time." Third went to Yingwen Zhu (CHN) in 54.01, the same time posted by her countrywoman Jiaying Pang (CHN) in the second seeded heat.

Erica Morningstar (CAN) who was 5th at last year's Worlds, came in at 54.66, which was good enough for 15th spot. Julia Wilkinson (CAN) will have to swim off for the semi, as she is tied for 16th at 54.70 with Petra Dallmann (GER).

The first seeded heat was won in 53.93 by Francesca Halsall (GBR), who was well ahead of second place swimmer Aleksandra Gerasimenya (BLR) in 54.52.

Men's 200 Back

In an unseeded heat, Tobias Oriwol  (CAN) posted a PB with a 1:58.94. Keith Beavers (CAN) was also a PB with a 1:58.84 narrowly missing the Canadian Record. They sit 15th and 16th heading into the semi-final. "The past few days I wrote 'rate' and 'rhythm' on my hand to remind me what to focus on," said Oriwol a Stanford University graduate. "Today I drew a smiley face, to remember to have fun and, at the end of the race, to smile."

After missing the final in the 100 back, Markus Rogan (AUT) put in a solid 1:56.64 win in his heat. He was the double-silver medallist in 2004 in both back events. "Just enjoy it and prepare for it as if it's my last race, "said Rogan about his semi-final preparation, "because it might be if I'm not careful." Behind him was Hayden Stoeckel (AUS), who tied for bronze in the 100 back. His time of 1:57.15 is off his best posted in January. "Winning the bronze as an amazing feeling," said Stoeckel. "But coach Thommo [Alan Thompson] and some of the other Australian guys brought me down a level. They kept telling me, 'Come on, you've still got stuff to do, you're not finished.'"

Ryan Lochte (USA) is the top seed, despite likely taking it easy as he has the 200IM as well. It is the hardest double of the Games and he is a legitimate challenger for gold in both events. His time this morning was 1:56.29 to Aaron Peirsol's (USA) 1:56.35 in the second seeded heat. "It was wonderful enough to do it in the 100. If I could do it in the 200 it would be a dream come true," said Peirsol of defending his Olympic titles. "But if I can't, it will in no way be a blemish on my career."

Also in Peirsol's heat, Ryosuke Irie (JPN) was 1:56.68 and Arkady Vyatchanin (RUS) who tied for bronze in the 100, was 1:56.97.  Gordon Kozulj (CRO) finished in 1:57.81 to qualify. He won silver in this event at the 2003 Worlds and is competing in his 4th Olympic Games.

Women's 200 Breast

Rebecca Soni (USA) is coming off a silver medal win in the 100 breast. She didn't have to make a statement, but she did: a new American and Olympic Record of 2:22.17. She swam from in front, but Megumi Taneda (JPN) closed on her to finish in 2:22.75. Soni's new records erase those held by Amanda Beard (USA), who swam in the first seeded heat and finished in 2:27.70.  That puts her 18th and unable to defend her Olympic title.

"It felt great," said Soni. "I didn’t even know I had broken an Olympic Record, it felt great. It reminded me that I am in the right place and not to stress. I just kind of need to relax and enjoy it."

World Record holder Leisel Jones (AUS) won her heat in 2:23.81 over 100 bronze medallist, Mirna Jukic (AUT) in 2:24.39.  In the first seeded heat it was Rie Kaneto (JPN) over Annamay Pierse (CAN) 2:24.62 to 2:25.01. Pierse, who is a contributing writer to SwimNews magazine, won 2 silvers at last summer's Pan Am Games. Look for her Games' Diary in the Olympic issue of the magazine.

Men's 200IM

Less than 30 minutes after his 200 back heat, Ryan Lochte (USA) was back at it. He eased through the first 100, worked the breast leg, before easing off on the free to touch in 1:58.15 for the top swim of the morning. Second in his heat was Thiago Pereira (BRA) in 1:58.41. Lochte's training partner at the University of Florida, Bradley Ally (BAR) sits in 5th spot with a 1:58.51.

The first seeded heat went to Ken Takakuwa (JPN) in 1:58.51. Double silver medallist, Laszlo Cseh (HUN) was second in 1:56.79, which is a PB.

In the final heat, Michael Phelps cruised to victory with a 1:58.65, which has him in 6th spot for the semi. Keith Beavers (CAN), who also just finished the 200 back, sits in 8th spot with a 1:59.19, which is a 2 second drop off his best. Brian Johns (CAN) who made finals in the 400IM, was 18th.

Women's 4x200 Free

The Frenchwomen came ever so close to breaking the World Record in the first heat with their 7:50.37. It was good enough for a new Olympic Record. Their splits:

Alena Popchanka: 158.27
Celine Couderc: 1:58.92
Camille Muffat: 1:57.32
Coralie Balmy: 1:55.86.

If Laure Manaudou was on form, watch out!

Canada was 4th in their heat. They smashed their National Record by 6 seconds to go a 7:56.26, but it was not enough to make the final. They finished in 10th spot. The Chinese women are in 4th spot, but rested at least 1 woman.

The America women who were battling for places on tomorrow's relay posted a 7:52.43 win, with Italy hot on their heels at 7:53.38. Federica Pelligrini had the top split of the morning with a 1:56.09. Hungary had a great swim to make the final. They sit in 6th spot with a 7:55.10. Most teams rested at least 1 swimmer so the times should be even faster tomorrow. The Brits miscalculated however, and finished 9th despite having had the potential to medal.