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SWC 2011, Tokyo day 2: Alshammar and Le Clos eclipse rivals for World Cup success

Swimming World Cup

TOKYO, Japan - Swedish superstar Therese Alshammar won the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup crown for an incredible fourth time in Tokyo tonight. The 34-year-old veteran had a relatively quiet time for her in Tokyo but a gold medal in the final event — the 50m Butterfly — reaffirmed her status as the Queen of the World Cup pool. It was her sixth straight victory after missing the opening Dubai round. She was joined on the victory dais by South African revelation, 19-year-old Chad Le Clos, whose 22 World Cup victories led to a commanding win in the men’s section on the second day of the seventh and final FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup meet at the Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre.

Alshammar topped the 2011 standings with 145 points, well clear of the USA’s Missy Franklin with 70 and Korea’s Choi Hye Ra with 60. Alshammar took out $US100,000 with Franklin $50,000 and Choi $30,000. Alshammar said that she thinks her season was better than last year. “What pleased me the most was winning all the Butterflys (50m) with four times under 26 seconds. By missing the first round there was less travelling. I have improved my strength and we have worked strongly on technique, making big improvements.”

Le Clos was ecstatic with his hefty $US100,000 first-place prize as he said he was a late replacement for the World Cup series. “I was lucky to be in the series and the great start in Dubai (six wins) gave me the possibility of making the top three and possibly winning." On the mental aspects of a draining seventh meet in such a short time, Le Clos said: “I knew it was going to be hard and that there were some wonderful Japanese and Chinese swimmers who are good at medleys, breaststroke and butterfly. They were gunning for me, as you could see."

Therese Alshammar & Chad Le Clos

“The best part of the series? Swimming against the best in the world and getting to swim against Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. If you want to win Olympic gold, you have to beat those swimmers,” he said.

The final appearance by Australian Ian Thorpe saw him bow out of the 100m Butterfly with the 26th fastest time of the meet and now leaves him to reflect on his performances and what he needs to do before the Australian Olympic trials next year.

Race summary:

Men's 1500m Freestyle: Youhei Takiguchi became the seventh different winner of the 2011 series when he finished in 14:42.22 He took the lead from Youto Satou at the 450m mark and Grant Hackett’s long-standing world record (14:10.10 set in 2001) was not under threat with Takiguchi 19.24 down at the halfway mark. The big mover in the third quarter of the race was Ryouta Watanabe (JPN), who came from well back to touch third but his time of 14:53.02 was shy of the morning heat winner, Ayatsugu Hirai (JPN), who won in 14:51.41. Second-placed Daisuke Doi (JPN) won silver with his time of 14:51.21, just 0.19 faster than Hirai.
Women's 100m Freestyle: Cate Campbell (AUS), scored the second fastest time of the year (52.31) when she completed a full set of medals in the Asian leg. From third in Singapore to second in Beijing, Campbell took a body-length lead at 50m and swam away with the race from Japan’s Haruka Ueda in 53.34, a national record. As in Beijing, China’s Tang Yi claimed the bronze medal in 53.40, 0.4 ahead of Australian comeback queen Libby Trickett. The winner of the last two World Cup events, Australian Emma McKeon, was not in Japan. Her fastest, in Beijing, was 53.09.

Men's 200m Freestyle: South African Chad Le Clos gained his first gold medal of the meet and 22nd of the series when he took out from the front and surged home in 1:43.79 from a fast-finishing Takeshi Matsuda (JPN), who touched in 1:43.99. Le Clos had the presence of mind to turn fast into the final lap and use that extra energy to fend off Matsuda. Syogo Hihara (JPN) was third in 1:44.69. For Le Clos it was a third straight win and emulated the effort of Germany’s Paul Biedermann, who won the three European meets.
Women's 50m Breaststroke: Leiston Pickett (AUS) scored a triple for the Asian leg, holding off Korea’s Kim Hye Jin, who overhauled Olivia Halicek (AUS) in the final metres. Pickett’s time of 30.28 was 0.03 slower than Beijing, but a hundredth of a second faster than Singapore. Kim touched in 30.42, 0.21 faster than Beijing when she also took silver. Halicek finished in 30.71, for consecutive bronzes but in a faster time.
Men's 100m Breaststroke: Australian Christian Springer’s shot at three straight was halted by Japan’s Rya Tateishi, who won in 57.52. Sprenger had to settle for 57.57, 0.42 faster than Beijing, while Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) was third in 58.36.

Women's 400m Individual Medley: In an all-Japan final, Miho Takahashi won in the second fastest time of the year — 4:29.98. In lane one, Miyu Ohtsuka took second in 4:31.84 in a near identical time to her Beijing silver effort, and across the other side of the pool there was a real race on for the bronze. Emu Higuchi out-touched Ayaka Komatsubara by a tenth of a second in 4:33.35.
Men's 100m Butterfly: In the absence of the winner of the two previous golds, Chad Le Clos (RSA), victory went to Ryo Takasyasu in a swift 50.52 — faster than both Le Clos’ efforts. Kouhei Kawamoto (JPN) touched second in 50.55 and Kazuya Kaneda (JPN) was third in 51.06. Takeshi Matsuda, who swam brilliantly to nearly claim the 200m Butterfly the previous night, was fourth.

Women's 100m Backstroke: Aya Terakawa swam the fastest time of the year in winning in 56.28 and was nearly a second faster than last week’s winner Gao Chang (CHN). Second at 57.08 was Australian Rachel Goh, who also won silver in Beijing and gold in Singapore. Third was Japan’s Shiho Sakai in 57.24. Terakawa’s effort was the second best of the meet with 945 points.

Men's 50m Backstroke
: It was all Japan on the dais again with top qualifier Junya Koga winning in 24.02 with Junya Hasegawa second in 24.32. In lane one, Masafumi Yamaguchi claimed the bronze in 24.38. It was only the sixth fastest winning time of the series.

Women's 200m Butterfly: Choi Hye Ra of Korea made it three in a row and her fastest swim of the series when she took a two-body-length lead at one stage to win in 2:04.16. Her previous swims were 2:08.40 and 2:07.72. The fast-finishing Swede, Martina Granstroem, closed in 2:05.76 from lane seven, while fastest qualifier Natsumi Hoshi (JPN) had to settle for third in 2:05.97. Granstroem’s time was a fraction slower than her Beijing effort of 2:05.02 and faster than her Singapore bronze-medal result. 

Men's 200m Individual Medley: Kosuke Hagino broke the national record in winning from the front in 1:53.67 from perennial winner Chad Le Clos (RSA). Hagino had the lead comfortably after the backstroke and went one and a half lengths ahead after the breaststroke leg. Le Clos did well to come back and finish half a body length behind in 1:54.72. Out in lane seven, Hidemasa Sano made his bid in the breaststroke and finished third in 1:55.94. It was Le Clos’ final race after a fantastic series and he was not lucky enough to win his fifth victory in the race.
Women's 400m Freestyle: Blair Evans set an Australian record last week and led all the way tonight but could not break four minutes, touching in 4:01.24 after being under world-record pace at the 100m mark. The fast start almost was her undoing as New Zealand Melissa Ingram made huge inroads in the final 50m to take silver in 4:02.03. Not far away in third was China’s Wang Fei in 4:04.62. It was three successive wins and the time was a shade slower than her first win in Singapore.
Men's 50m Freestyle: Japan’s Kenta Ito swam the fastest time in the world for 2011 in the splash for cash with a blistering 21.25. He was clearly ahead for most of the second lap. He headed off Australian Kyle Richardson, the winner of the last two events in Asia. He closed in 21.55, his fastest of the three races. French star Alain Bernard was third in 21.60 from lane three.

Women's 200m Breaststroke: Rie Kanetou (JPN) swam the second fastest in the world this year (2:19.72) to out-touch countrywoman Saya Fujimoto (2:19.94), who swam the fourth fastest, in an engrossing race. Da Rae Jeong (KOR), who led at the 50m but was second at 100m behind Fujimoto, had to settle for third in 2:21.55. Kanetou made her move to claim second position at 150m and then slowly overhauled Fujimoto in the final lap.
Women's 100m Individual Medley
: Zhao Jing (CHN) went one better than in Beijing, winning in 59.54, four one hundredths slower. She led all the way and outpaced Japan’s fastest qualifier Tomoko Hagiwara, who swam 1:00.52. Out in lane eight, Tomoyo Fukuda took bronze in 1:00.67.
Men's 200m Backstroke: Colombia's Omar Pinzon won in Beijing with a personal best time of 1:50.46. Tonight he was the fastest qualifier and he did not disappoint with a 1:51.15. He led from the start and was nudged out of top spot by Yuuki Shirai (JPN) at 100m but was back in front with a great last turn. Unseen in lane one, Kazuki Watanabe (JPN) burst into second place in 1:51.51 while Shirai had to to be happy with 1:51.98 and bronze. Watanabe swam 1:52.20 for the silver medal in Beijing.
Women's 50m Butterfly: Therese Alshammar (SWE) closed the meet as the best female performer with her sixth straight victory since Stockholm, finishing in 25.35 from Japan’s Yuka Katou in a national record 25.52 and Japan’s Rino Hosoda third in 26.40.