ROME // Backstroke ace Aaron Peirsol would not be surprised if another world record were to fall in the 100m final later this week after being pushed hard by Spanish and Japanese rivals in yesterday's world championship heats. Spain's Aschwin Wildeboer set a championship record of 52.93 seconds to top the time sheets with Japan's Ryosuke Irie clocking 53 and American Peirsol, Junya Koga and Briton Liam Tancock swimming 53.08.
An arms race has been hotting up in backstroke for months with the world record being smashed almost at will after the introduction of high-tech suits, which will be banned from 2010. World and Olympic champion Peirsol snatched a new record of 51.94 at the US trials in Indianapolis earlier this month just days after Wildeboer had broken his previous record. "I'm starting to think a world record would win. That would be good. That would probably do it," Peirsol said ahead of the semi-finals late yesterday and today's final.
Six world records were destroyed on the opening day of swimming competition on Sunday and Gemma Spofforth almost broke another in the women's 100 backstroke heats. The Briton zoomed through the water in 58.78, just a fingertip away from Kirsty Coventry's record of 58.77. "I'm very happy with that. I'm completely surprised. I wasn't expecting that at all," she said. A championship record then melted in the warm waters of the Foro Italico's outdoor pool when America's Rebecca Soni bagged 1min 5.66secs in the women's 100 breaststroke preliminaries.
Dane Lotte Friis was quickest in the 1,500 freestyle heats. Korean Park Tae-hwan, who flopped in Sunday's 400 heats despite being Olympic champion, qualified eighth in the 200. "I raced better than I did yesterday. I was thinking a lot about it last night. I was ashamed of my performance," he said. * Reuters