Croatia’s Duje Draganja edged out home favourite Mark Foster to smash the world 50m freestyle best as records tumbled at the World Short-Course Swimming Championships in Manchester on Friday.
Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry took the individual honours with her third title of the meet, while Australia, cheered on from the stands by the legendary Grant Hackett, strengthened their position in the medals table by adding three more golds to their tally to close the third day of competition.
Despite a difficult lane one draw, Draganja powered home to deny Foster a seventh world crown in a new best for the event of 20,81 seconds. The 26-year-old paid tribute to the veteran British star and he said: ”I can only apologise to Mark for beating him in his own house.”
Silver was ample consolation from the 37-year-old, who admitted: ”I’ve said all along he was the one to watch and I knew he’d fight all the way for gold.”
Coventry insisted there’s more to come after setting one of five world records to fall on another action-packed night.
The Zimbabwean Olympic medal favourite continued her stunning run of form in preparation for this summer’s Beijing Games by adding the 200m backstroke to the 100m backstroke and 400m medley titles, in the process shattering the world record by more than two seconds in 2:00,91.
”It’s a great feeling,” said Coventry (24), after another awesome performance that saw her leave a high-class line-up trailing.
”My preparations for the Olympics are going really well and the buzz of setting world records just makes you want to break as many as possible. I’m pretty tired and my legs are sore, but it’s exciting. It’s extra special because I’ve got some family in the crowd and it’s the first time they’ve seen me at such a big meet.”
Felicity Galvez set the tone for Australia with a world best of 25,32 seconds in holding off the strong favourite Hinkelien Schreuder of The Netherlands to claim gold in the 50m butterfly, shaving 0,01 seconds off the previous best that had stood for three years.
A disappointed Schreuder admitted: ”I realise now I probably had a bit more to give.”
Aussie teammate Kylie Palmer dipped under the four-minute barrier to claim a championship record in winning the 400m freestyle as Romania’s Camelia Potec and Britain’s Joanne Jackson took silver and bronze.
”Having Grant Hackett watching was really exciting,” Palmer said. ”He wished me luck before the race which gave me a big boost.”
Shayne Reese made it a hat-trick of individual women’s titles on the night for the green and golds as she came in ahead of Finland’s Hanna-Maria Seppala in the 100m medley with the tireless Coventry adding a bronze to her haul.
Ryan Lochte lived up to his billing as favourite to claim gold for the United States in the 200m medley, easily holding off British duo Liam Tancock and James Goddard in a world-record 1:51,56.
Lochte’s efforts inspired the US’s women’s 4x100m medley as they also set a new global mark to take the title in 3:52,01 ahead of Australia and Britain.
Britain now top the medal standings with 16, and there was a home win for the MEN Arena crowd to celebrate as Kris Gilchrist touched out Igor Borysik of the Ukraine in 2:06,18 in a thrilling climax to the 200m backstroke.
”After qualifying for the Olympics, this is just the icing on the cake,” said the Scot. ”It was a hard race but having the home crowd cheer for you makes a huge difference.”
Yuriy Prilukov set a European record to claim 400m freestyle gold in 3:37,35 as the Russian led the field home by more than two seconds.
Marleen Veldhuis paid tribute to Francesca Halsall after collecting The Netherlands’ second gold of the five-day meet with a championship best 52,17 in the 100m freestyle.
Veldhuis was pushed all the way by the British swimmer, and she said: ”I managed to turn it on in the last 50m but Francesca is a great swimmer and she’s someone we’re going to see a lot more of in the future.”
On a night of notable times, there were championship records for Tancock, who continued his impressive form with 23,41 seconds to qualify fastest for the 50m backstroke final, and Australia’s Adam Pine, who clocked 22,7 in his 50m butterfly semifinal.
Jessica Hardy of the US also wrote her name in the championship record books in qualifying for Saturday’s 100m breaststroke final in a time of 1:04,63. — Sapa-AFP