On a night when five more world records bit the dust, Aaron Peirsol still figured he could just coast through the semi-finals of his signature event. He didn’t want to push himself too hard, figured he could save a little energy for the final swim.
Peirsol, the world-record holder and two-time Olympic champion in the 100m backstroke, was stunningly knocked out in the semi-finals on Monday, caught off guard by the lightning-quick times that dealt another beating to the record book on the second day of the world swimming championships.
There’s been a staggering 11 world records set at the final major meet for high-tech bodysuits, with six more days still to go. The suits — some made of 100 percent rubber — will be banned starting next year, but that’s not soon enough for swimming purists who believe this Roman speed show is nothing more than a sad spectacle ruining the integrity of the sport.
Peirsol was wearing one of those newfangled suits, but it sure didn’t help. His time of 53.22 seconds was nearly a full second behind the top qualifier, Japan’s Junya Koga, and one-tenth of a second out of the eighth spot, the last that advances to the final.
Peirsol lingered in the water, staring at the scoreboard in disbelief. Finally, he climbed out of the pool and walked across the deck, his hands on his hips, clearly disgusted. Less than three weeks earlier, he had pushed the world record to 51.94 at the US nationals.
In Rome, he couldn’t even make the final.
“It’s just a huge miscalculation,” said Peirsol, the three-time defending world champion in the 100m back and winner of that event at the last two Olympics. “I thought I was in a much better place, but if you’re looking straight up you don’t see much.”
MONDAY, JULY 27
Women’s 100m backstroke
Chen Ting placed 63/113
time: 1:05.65 (eliminated)
Men’s 200m freestyle
Chien Jui-ting placed 85/141
time: 1:55.91 (eliminated)
Pan Kai-wen placed 90/141
time: 1:56.77 (eliminated)
Women’s 100m breaststroke
Chen I-chuan placed 67/94
time: 1:14.75 (eliminated)
Men’s 100m backstroke
Tsung Chao-lin placed 66/117
time: 58.93 (eliminated)
Michael Phelps was taking no chances.
In his first individual event of these championships, Phelps breezed through the preliminaries and semi-finals of the 200m freestyle, though it looked as though he would have some tough competition in yesterday’s final. Germany’s Paul Biedermann already showed no respect for the swimming greats when he knocked off Ian Thorpe’s iconic record in the 400m free, and he’ll have the prime No. 4 lane for the final after breezing through the semis in 1 minute, 43.65 seconds — not far off Phelps’ world record of 1:42.96.
Phelps won his semi-final heat and was third-fastest overall at 1:45.23.
The record-breaking carried on at a staggering pace on Monday.
• Brenton Rickard of Australia set a world standard in the very first event, winning the 100m breaststroke in 58.58 to take down Kosuke Kitajima’s mark of 58.91.
• Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom broke the record she set a day earlier in the semi-finals of the 100m butterfly at 56.06, shaving nearly four-tenths off the 24-hour-old record.
• Ariana Kukors provided a rare bright spot for the struggling US team in the 200 individual medley, beating Olympic champion Stephanie Rice of Australia in 2:06.15. That was nearly a full second faster than Kukors’ record swim in the semis. Kukors got the spot when Elizabeth Pelton dropped out to concentrate on the 100m back, a move that backfired when the teenager didn’t even make the final.
• Rebecca Soni of the US and Russia’s Anastasia Zueva both set world records in the semis. Soni’s time of 1:04.84 in the 100m breaststroke beat Leisel Jones’ three-year-old record of 1:05.09, while Zueva won her heat of the 100m back in 58.48, wiping Kirsty Coventry’s mark of 58.77 off the books.