First impressions and blistering marks at London Aquatics Centre

London 2012 Swimming

Many outstanding swimmers competed in the prelim heats of the British Nationals and the top 8 were seeded directly to an international finals session at the Olympic test event in the London Aquatics Centre, the venue for the 2012 Olympic Games. Most of these athletes came to see the venue and to familiarize themselves with the iconic new venue that will be the highlight of most of their careers.

Day 1, Saturday (March 3, 2012)
- World record holder Paul Biederman (GER) easily won the 400m freestyle event in a time of 3:50.95 easily defeating Velimir Stjepanov (SRB) who finished 2.29 seconds back. Biederman's time is the 18th fastest of the new year and a far cry from the 3:44.14 time he posted at the FINA World Championships last summer in Shanghai. Veteran Olympian Markus Rogan (AUT), currently training in the USA with Coach David Salo swam to a first place finish in the 400m IM, about 14 seconds off the world record set by Michael Phelps in this event. Ryan Lochte (USA) won the world championships last summer in a time of 4:07.13 but has yet to swim the event in 2012.  Rogan's prelim time of 4:17.18 was faster than his finals posting of 4:17.60 and he now has the 9th & 10th fastest performances of the new year.  German's Hendik Feldwehr looked smooth in his race against LI Xiayan of China cruising to a 1:00.48 and collecting his FINA A qualifying time. His swim is the 4th fastest of the year, but some distance from Alex Dale Oen's (NOR) fastest time of 2011, 58.71 set at the summer world championships.

In the women's events South Africa's Kathryn Meaklim was an easy winner over Barbara Zavadova (CZE) in the 400m individual medley contest. Meaklim swam a half second faster than her morning prelim swim, also faster than the FINA A qualifying time covering the distance in 4:39.98. Zavadova was 1.78 seconds behind, but some distance from her 3:36.96 posting in Shanghai. The best swim of the first days finals was from Swedish swimmer Sara Sjoestroem who beat Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak by 2.21 seconds stopping the clock at 56.79. Sjoestroem was just .73 off her world record performance set at the 2009 FINA World's in Rome. Last summer she posted the world's 9th fastest performance swimming a half second faster at the Shanghai world championships, 57.29. Her time in London is the fastest swum in 2012.

Day 2, Sunday (March 4, 2012) -
Mie Nielsen (DEN) just squeaked by Ekaterina Avramova (BUL) in the women's 100m backstroke event in a winning time of 1:01.04. Velimir Stjepanovic (SRB) was third after the first 50m but shifted into another gear to sneak past Wu Peng in the men's 200m freestyle event to post a 1:49.32 winning time.

Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) who led the first lap by over a second was able to hang on at the finish defeating Sweden's Jennie Johansson by .02 in the women's 100m breaststroke. The Lithuanian swimmer posted a time of 107.30 and her time is the thirds fastest of the year. Both athletes swam faster that the FINA A cut Olympic qualifying times. Johansson's 1:07.10 prelim swim is ranked as the second fastest time of 2012 and was faster than her 1:07.80 result last summer in Shanghai.

Tenth ranked Aschwin Wildeboer (ESP) led from the start in the men's 100m backstroke touching at 54.65, just .45 of a second ahead of Charl Crous. The Spanish backstrokers' best time in 2011, 53.67 earned him a 10th place ranking at year end, but already there are 14 men who have swum faster than he has in 2012.

Lotte Friis of Denmark cruised through the women's 400m freestyle and faster than the FINA A qualifying time standard to defeat Ireland's Grainne Murphy by 4.64 seconds. Friis' best time of 2012 is 4:08.32 compared with her 8th place world ranked time of 4:04.68 posted at the world championships in Shanghai.

Day 3, Monday (March 5, 2012)

Women's 200m Freestyle: Sarah Sjoestroem (SWE) sent messages to Dutch, American and Australian swimmers that she will be a formidable rival in the women's 200m freestyle event in this same pool during the Olympic Games. While still miles away from the world record set by Italian world champion Federica Pellegrini at the 2009 Rome world championships, the Swede's time of 1:55.23 places her at the top of the 2012 leader board. She swam 1:56.41 last summer in Shanghai, ranked 8th at the end of 2011. Her 2012 London swim is faster than Femke Heemskerk (NED) and the world record holder who swam 1:55.54 and 1:55.88 respectively in Shanghai for second and third positions in the 2011 world rankings. There still remains Missy Franklin who swam the world's fastest time in 2011, leading off the USA relay team in a split of 1:55:06, nearly half a second faster than the winner of the individual event in Shanghai.

Men's 200m Butterfly: In the men's 200m butterfly Serbian Velimir Stjepanovic and Austrian Dinko Jukic both achieved their FINA A qualification times finishing .09 seconds apart. The Serbian swimmer was third at the first turn but found his rhythm and led the race for the next 150m to squeak out a win in the time of 1:56.47. Stjepanovic was ranked 36th in 2011, his fastest time in 2011 was 1:57.40. Jukic was ranked 6th from his 1:54.94 swim in Shanghai and finished .09 behind the Serbian swimmer in London.

Women's 200m Individual Medley: Kathryn Meaklim (RSA) took the 200m women's individual medley out at a comfortable pace touching the walls at the 50m and 100m turns in 4th position behind Choi Hye Ra (KOR) and two other swimmers. Meaklim made up more than a second of her deficit and finished nearly a second ahead of the Korean swimmer in a final time of 2:13.59.

Day 4, Tuesday (March 6, 2012)

Men's 100m Freestyle: Konrad Czerniak (POL) led from start to finish posting a 23.57 time for the first lap and splitting a 25.89 on his return to defeat Germany's Markus Diebler by .04 of a second. The winning time was 49.46 but his prelim time of 49.14 is the 11th fastest performance of 2012 tying him with USA's Michael Phelps (at the Austin US Grand Prix) and Australia's James Magnuson. The Australian has 4 of the fastest times in the top 10 including the world's fastest time this year of 48.05 swum in January.

Winner's Quote: "I was hoping to swim a 49.2. My morning swim was faster and way easier, but it's late at night. This competition is just like training although it's always my goal to swim faster at night. I think my time was OK for this time of year without any taper or shave or any break in training. I just wanted to make sure that I was focusing on my technique. This pool is great with plenty of space but just like me, it's not ready just yet."

Women's 100m Backstroke: Mireia Belmonte of Spain and Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak each took the first 100 a bit easy, conserving their strength for their race to the touch pad. Jedzrejczak took the lead at the 150m mark with Belmonte in fast pursuit. A 32.63 split in the final 50 sealed the deal for the Spanish swimmer who counts the 200m fly as one of 6 events on her Olympic program. Belmonte's time of 2:07.63 bested her rival by .29 of a second but both swimmers were faster than the FINA A cut, the qualifying time for the London Olympic Games. Belmonte's result was the 5th fastest time posted in 2012. In 2011 her 2:06.25 ranked her 12th in 2011.

Winner's Quote: "I had a very good feeling about this race although I lost my cap at the last turn. It was my best time in season and just 24 days after our altitude training in Arizona in the USA. I came here to check out the pool and have my first race before the Olympics just so I know where I am. It's a big pool with very good lighting and I felt that I had good speed in the water. I'm looking forward to when it's filled with swimming fans for a week - that will really be impressive. I have qualifying times in 6 events (400IM, 400FR, 800FR, 200IM, 200BU, 200FR) but I still have to qualify at Spanish Nationals in Malaga at the end of the month. Those 6 events will be held over 4 days and I expect it will be difficult, but I will try to swim them all if I can. There are a lot of things I need to do over the next few months, everything is about the details of my stroke."

Men's 200m Breaststroke: In the men's 200m breaststroke Laurent Carnol swam to an easy victory over Melquiades Alvarez (ESP) in a time of 2:12.50. Carnol posted a time of 2:09.78 in late January in a meet in Luxembourg but was faster than his prelim time of 2:14.99 in London. His January time was the fastest in 2012 until eclipsed by Andrew Willis the British National champion who swam 2:09.33 to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Winner's Quote: "It was a good result. I just wanted to enjoy a nice swim in the Olympic pool. My time was close to what I swam at World's in Shanghai last summer. It's my first race in the Olympic pool but I train at Loughborough University with many of the British swimmers so I also wanted to be here to support my mates. My coach for the last 2 1/2 years is Ian Armiger and he's a very enthusiastic person and someone who gets me excited to swim at half past 5 in the morning when I'm jumping in the pool but not fully awake."

Day 5, Wednesday (March 7, 2012)

Women's 100m Freestyle: World Champion Jeanette Ottesen (DEN) had little trouble winning the women's 100m free event in a time of 54.14, beating Daniela Schreiber (GER) by .62 seconds. Ottesen was out in 26.08 and back in 28.06 for a final time of 54.14 which is faster than the FINA A qualifying time. Ottesen tied with Aliaksandra Herasimenya for the gold medal at the FINA World Championships last summer in Shanghai, their time was 53.45, the second fastest posting in 2011.

Winner's Quote: "It was an OK race but the last 5 to 10m I was very tired and I had a hard time pushing myself. We have been away for 4 weeks of hard training in Spain and in South Africa. I feel heavy and tired right now. The Danish trials are later this month. It was important to get a good look at this pool it's been a great experience. I can say that I have been here. Next time it will be for the Olympic Games and when I see the pool again it won't be so new and unfamiliar."

Men's 200m Backstroke: Radoslaw Kawecki (POL) achieved his FINA A qualifying time in the London Olympic pool swimming 1:58.34, 1.51 seconds ahead of second place Darren Murray of South Africa. The Polish swimmer took things easy in the first half of the race turning at the 50 and the 100 in third position. He was the only swimmer under 30 seconds in the final lap of the race. His time is the 3rd fastest in the new year. In 2011 his best time 1:56.90 was the 22nd fastest performance of the year.

Winner's Quote: "I'm happy but it's not a 1:55, that would have been nice. We have been training hard and I didn't take a break for this meet. I will be back to hard work very soon. This is a very beautiful pool and it was wise of use to come to swim here."

Women's 200m Breaststroke: Rikke Pereresen (DEN) led the entire race beating Marina Garcia (ESP) by .46, an event where both swimmers beat the FINA A qualifying standard. Their times are now 2nd and 4th fastest in the new year.  In 2011 their best times, both set in Shanghai ranked them 13th (2:24.80) and 18th (2:25.79) respectively.

Winner's Quote: "My race was fine, in fact it was tough for me, because of my expectations for myself. I have been training well but very hard too. Sometimes I expect it to come easier than it does. I feel that I am in the right place right now. I swam in lane 1 tonight, lucky to be in the finals due to withdrawal of two other swimmers. Swimming in lane 1 makes me grow a little and I wanted to reach for a good time. I wanted to finish my first race in the Olympic pool with a win regardless of swimming in an outside lane. In late March we have our Danish Nationals and although I have my FINA qualifying times I must compete in Danish trials and swim faster than a 26."

Men's 200 Individual Medley: Markus Deibler of Germany outmaneuvered Austrian Markus Rogan by a very narrow margin of .10 in the men's 400m Individual Medley. Rogan was off to a slow start turning 7th at the first 50m wall while Deibler was 2nd after the first 50 but dropped back to 6th at the 100m mark. The last 100m was a race between men who share the same first name and a common border with the elder and experienced Rogan turning first with more than a half second lead over the young German. Diebler pulled out all the stops in his final lap and the fatigue and exhaustion was evident as he tried to exit the pool, leaving all of his energy in that race. Their London times slot them as 7th and 8th fastest in the new year. Rogan swam 1:57.74 in Shanghai in this event and was ranked 11th best performance of 2011.

Winner's Quote: "During the breaststroke leg I saw Markus Rogan in the video board and he was about 2m ahead of me. I thought that's OK, not so bad a gap between us, and I just tried my best to catch him and I did. I pay for it every time when I chase someone, it's very painful. I need to work on my endurance. This morning I had a goal time of 2:01.00 hoping to qualify for the European championships. I thought I gave it 100% this morning but I swam a 2:02. My training last week was really slow. We didn't come down 100% for this meet. Fortunately I am here and I don't have to travel with the rest of my squad to another meet. I am finished at this meet and I have a free weekend to spend with my girlfriend so I am heading home tomorrow. I came to see the Olympic pool and it was worth it."

Day 6, Thursday (March 8, 2012)

Men's 50m Freestyle: The title of fastest man in the London Aquatics Centre went to Stefan Nystrand of Sweden in a winning time of 22.39. In second place was Nystrand's teammate Petter Stymne at 22.74 with the bronze to Marco Di Carli (GER) on 22.78. Thirty year old Nystrand is the 11th fastest swimmer in history having blasted a 21.45 at the 2009 world championships in Rome. In 2009 there were 25 races with a faster time than his world championship result. His final time in London moves him to the 17th fastest performance in 2012, just two tenths of a second faster than Australia's "Top Gun" James Magnuson.

Women's 200m Backstroke: An emotional Karin Prinsloo (RSA) won the 200m backstroke in 2:10.34 shaving two seconds off her prelim swim but just 0.09 seconds ahead of Ekaterina Avramova (BUL) in the women's 200m backstroke. The Tucks swimmer is based near Pretoria swam exactly one half second faster than the FINA A qualifying time in an event she never expected to achieve. Most significantly her swim was the last event of her London competition program.

Winner's Quote: "I came here for the 200m free and with the 200m back and after failing to qualify in those events I didn't think I'd qualify for the Olympics. I don't train a lot of backstroke. I usually only train free and just use the backstroke in the relay. This was only my third international backstroke race since 2005. I was beginning to think my London experience was not a good one and then it all came together tonight. The pool is awesome."

Men's 100m Butterfly: Konrad Czerniak (POL) squeaked past Milorad Cavic (SRB) in the men's 100m butterfly by a narrow margin of .14.  Czerniak's time of 52.07 and Cavic's 52.21 are the two fastest times of the year. Cavic was fastest in the first 50 splitting 24.04 to 24.28 for the Polish swimmer. Cavic returned to training following back surgery that kept him out of the 2011 world championships. Cavic is the 2008 Olympic and 2009 FINA world championship silver medalist and the only man to have been within a fingertip of victory over Michael Phelps in what is arguably Phelps' best event. Phelps, 49.82 and Cavic, 49.95 are the fastest athletes in history in this event and the only two swimmers with sub 50 second performances.

Winner's Quote: "I saw several doctors who said that I would never compete again after surgery. Before the operation, my doctor it was never going to be the same. I feel like I've lost an edge to my explosive power. The important thing is I don't feel any pain any more. I have had some good therapy. I had to do things differently and not listen to the part of me that was saying "you are too old for this."

"I have often repeated the saying I once heard, "when the devil smiles at a man, all the man can do is smile back" and in the water I'm ready to attack, attack, attack until there is nothing left in my tank. In Beijing the American media portrayed me as a bit of villain. But I don't give a damn. I think rivalry is good for the sport."

"After surgery I realized how much I like doing what I do. I'm lucky to be here and I know that one of the coolest things would be to win another Olympic medal. I think I shine in these moments. I think I do well under pressure."

Recently I asked the City of Belgrade to help fund a month training for me, my coach Andrea Di Nino and my training partners to train in my hometown. My city has always been behind me 100% and it's great to be able to bring guys together who enjoy training with each other. We swim in a pool built in the 1970's by Yugoslavian dictator Tito but it's been refurbished and it's quite nice. Sports in Serbia are very important and we have amazing support. The city held an event that drew 50,000 people to see me and our water polo team after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

One of my dreams is to open my own swimming academy. I am a candidate for the IOC Athletes' Commission, an election that will be held by the athletes at this summer's Olympic Games.  I also aspire to be Minister of Sport in my country someday."

Day 7, Friday (March 9, 2012)

Women's 800m Freestyle: The three swimmers who contested the women's 800m freestyle each represented a different Asian country. The winner was Han Nakyeong from Korea in a time of 8:52.89. Less than a second behind her was teammate Seo Younjeong posting a time of 8:53.61. Tang Win of Hong Kong finished third in a time of 8:55.66. 

Quote from Tang Win of Hong Kong: "It's been amazing swimming here this week. Seeing stars like Rebecca Adlington is so inspiring for me and I hope it will make me a better swimmer. It gives me great motivation for my Olympic selection trials in June where I hope to qualify. My time was three seconds off qualifying. I have swam quite a bit over the past five days so being tired was a factor."

Women's 50m Freestyle: Thirty two years old Dutch swimmer Marleen Veldhuis leaves London as the fastest woman to swim in the London Aquatics Centre beating Belgium swimmer Jolien Sysmans by almost a full second. That time means she is the fastest in the world this year. She is the current short course world record holder in the 50m freestyle, a record with her name on it since November 2007.Her winning time in the 50m freestyle event in London, 24.49 was equal to her bronze medal performance in Shanghai at last summer's world championships. Although she does not hold the long course world record now, she first set the world record in 2008 and broke it again in 2009. Also in 2009 she held the world fastest time in the 50m butterfly. Veldhuis was a member of the gold medal winning 4x100m freestyle relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. Her time in Shanghai placed her 3rd on the 2011 world rankings in the 50m freestyle. 

Winner's Quote: "My training is going well. We just completed a hard training camp and we came down for this meet just to rest a bit. Next week we have one of our selection events. With only 20 swimmers we do not have a trials but there are a lot of very good sprinters in my country. I am pleased with my time for a swim at this time of the year, but its really about how I swim this summer that really matters. I am focusing on the 50 free and the relay so that I can be back here on august 4th talking to you along this very fence. It's nice to swim fast in March but its my goal to swim fast on August 4th and for my relay team. I expect there will be a lot of competition, but I'm training to be ready and working hard towards my goals.

My goals in coming here were to have a very good race and to familiarise myself with the pool. It's only a half hour flight and I was excited to see the Olympic pool. This pool feels like a home pool to me, it's nicer certainly that ours in Eindhoven and it feels warm."

Day 8, Saturday (March 10, 2012)

Men's 1500m Freestyle: Devon Brown (RSA) swam his own race on the final race of the test event, completing his 1500m freestyle in 15:17.66, 20.22 seconds ahead of Zheng Mingjian of China and 21.06 ahead of Wei Haobo also of China. The FINA A qualifying time is 15:11.83. Brown is coached by Graham Hill and is attending Varsity College in Durban.

Winner's Quote: "It was a good race, but tough swimming by myself. I stuck to my game plan and stayed on my pace. I guess the time was OK for not being shaved or tapered. I was sick last summer at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China and I could only manage a 15:45. To qualify for the Olympic Games I still need to swim faster than the qualifying time and we are expected to swim under the cut twice, but because of my age I am hoping they will allow me some consideration if I swim the cut at our trials in Durban next month. I'm feeling very confident that I can get the cut next month."