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Hansen gets back on top at pool

Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2005

MONTREAL — Brendan Hansen pounded the water with a defiant swing of his right arm, then paddled slowly toward the lane rope, exchanging a handshake and hug with the man he had just beaten.

After their brief embrace, Hansen swam off in one direction, Kosuke Kitajima the other.

Until the next time.

On a night when Roland Schoeman and Jessica Hardy set world records — one to be expected, the other a shocker — Hansen regained the upper hand Monday in one of swimming's fiercest rivalries.

Hansen holds world records in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, but Kitajima beat him in those events at the Athens Olympics last summer.

Eager for redemption, Hansen jumped in the pool at the World Swimming Championships — with Kitajima in the very next lane for the 100 final.

''Not many people get a second chance,'' Hansen said, ''so I didn't want to screw it up twice.''

He didn't. The American took control in the first 50 and touched first in 59.37 seconds, just off the world mark of 59.30 he set at last year's U.S. Olympic trials but a new meet record. Kitajima was second in 59.53.

When Hansen saw his name atop the scoreboard, he pounded the water in delight. France's Hugues Duboscq won bronze.

''Everyone keeps asking me, 'What was that extra thing I had tonight?''' Hansen said. ''It was definitely emotion.''

Kitajima isn't ready to concede. Not by a long shot.

''Hansen seems to be very confident and I assumed he would be very happy to avenge the Athens Olympics,'' the Japanese star said. ''This time I lost, but at the next world championships, I think I could beat him.''

Michael Phelps seemed to be back on form, posting the best time in the semifinals of the 200 freestyle. But his first individual medal of the worlds will have to wait until at least Tuesday, when he finally gets a much-anticipated race against Australia's Grant Hackett.

Schoeman captured the 50 butterfly and broke the world record he set just a day earlier in the semifinals. He held off American Ian Crocker in a furious dash from one end of the pool to the other, touching in 22.96.

Sergiy Breus of Ukraine took bronze in the non-Olympic event.

''Not bad for an African,'' quipped Schoeman, a three-time medalist in Athens whose 1-day-old record was 23.01. ''I'd like to dominate the sprints in the future. I'll give it a shot.''

Hardy, an 18-year-old American swimming in her first international event, seems to have quite a future after her stunning performance in the semifinals of the 100 breaststroke.

The teenager from Long Beach, Calif., got off the block quicker than anyone and never faltered down the stretch, posting a time of 1 minute, 6.20 seconds. That broke the record of 1:06.37 set two years ago by Australia's Leisel Jones at the Barcelona world championships.

''It's one of the great things about our team,'' said American captain Natalie Coughlin. ''We are so young, and we have swimmers like Jessica Hardy who can drop two seconds and seemingly come out of nowhere.''

When Hardy saw her time, accompanied by the world record graphic twirling in French on the scoreboard, she mouthed, ''Oh my God.''

''It was definitely a shock, an awesome shock,'' Hardy said.

Jones will get a chance to reclaim the record in Tuesday's final. She was the second-fastest qualifier at 1:06.93.

''My goal was to make the finals,'' the Aussie said.

The Australians went 1-2 in the women's 100 butterfly. Jess Schipper claimed gold with a meet record of 57.23, just 14-hundredths of a second ahead of countrywoman Libby Lenton. Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak took the bronze.

''I can't believe it,'' Schipper said. ''Everything's turning really hard in my head.''

The U.S. won its second gold of the night when 16-year-old Katie Hoff, who was overcome by nerves in her Olympic debut at Athens, won the 200 individual medley.

''I feel like this was my most pressured event, so just to get it done with and do so great, is just really great,'' she said.

Hoff was the youngest member of the 2004 Olympic swim team, coming from the same North Baltimore club that produced Phelps. She seemed to be peaking at the right time last summer — until she got on the Olympic deck. A poor showing in the 400 IM left her crying and vomiting.

Hoff didn't look nervous at her first world championships, holding off Zimbabwe's Kirsty Conventry. The American was on world-record pace through the fly, backstroke and breaststroke, but she tailed off in the free to finish in 2:10.41.

Still, that was good enough to set a meet record, with Australia's Lara Carroll claiming the bronze.

Phelps flopped in his first swim of the championships, failing to qualify for the final of the 400 free and ruining any chance of matching the eight medals he won at the Athens Olympics last summer.

But he put up the best time in the 200 semifinals, 1:46.33, while an energy-conserving Hackett settled comfortably in fourth.

''I wanted to go out there and be the first seed,'' Phelps said. ''I wanted to show that the first race wasn't how I planned to swim the whole meet.''

Hackett, who has the 800 free preliminaries Tuesday morning, didn't want to burn himself out in the 200. He was pleased with a time of 1:47.66.

''It was a really controlled swim,'' Hackett said. ''I wanted to do it with a minimal amount of energy.''

As expected, Americans led qualifying in semifinals for the 100 backstroke. Aaron Peirsol set the pace on the men's side, while Coughlin was the top woman.

Both are world record holders and heavily favored in Tuesday's finals.



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