Most of the top swimmers - barring Park Tae-hwan - took advantage of bodysuits to notch wins and records at the World Championships in Rome yesterday. The bodysuits, to be banned by Fina from 2010 onwards, aided in many a speedy start. This was not the case with everyone, however, in particular with defending Olympic and world champion Park. The South Korean failed to advance to the final of the men's 400m freestyle.
"I'm surprised, too," Park said. "I couldn't get enough rest after the Olympics. I worked hard in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 with no rest. That was the problem." Park had a weak start and only managed a 12th-best time of 3:46.04, three seconds off Germany's Paul Biedermann top time of 3:43.01. China's Zhang Lin was next at 3:43.58, followed by Tunisian Ous Mellouli at 3:43.78. Peter Vanderkaay of the US got through as the fifth qualifier.
But it was a good day for Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom, who set a championship record in the first event - but narrowly missed the world record in the preliminaries of the 100m butterfly. With a time of 56.76secs, Sjostrom was fastest in the 100 fly, beating Libby Trickett's 57.15 two years ago, and only just missing Inge de Bruijn's world record of 56.61. American Dana Vollmer came in second at 57.15 and Australian Jess Schipper held third place at 57.17. "This is the first time I've worn this suit in a race, so I'm very happy with it," Schipper said.
"That's my fastest heat. Hopefully it will keep going the right way." In the men's 50m butterfly heats, world record holder Rafael Munoz and Roland Schoeman both broke the championship record with swims of 22.90 secs while the Australian favourite Brenton Rickard matched their achievement in the 100 breaststroke heats. "It's a fast time but it doesn't really matter that much. It's about trying to get yourself on that podium come tomorrow night," Rickard said after swimming 58.98.
Australia qualified third for the later final in the women's 4x100 freestyle relay behind championship-record breakers Germany despite news that team member Meagen Nay's brother had been killed in a car crash. Brazil romped home first in the men's relay in another record for a world meet with US qualifying fourth. * With agencies