Ian Crocker smashes world record in 100 fly at FINA World Championships
MONTREAL -- For the past two years, former University of Texas star Ian Crocker and Michael Phelps have owned the 100m butterfly in international competition, and Saturday night's finals at the XI FINA World Championships was no different.
The American duo faced off once again as the top two seeds in that event on Day 7, this time with Crocker coming out on top with a decisive win, shattering the world record by .36 seconds with a time of 50.40. Phelps took the silver in 51.65.
"My goal was to break the record," Crocker said. "I didn't know it would be by that much, and I am really happy with the outcome.
"When racing against Phelps, I know I need a world record to beat him. I train as hard as I can, and when it comes to the day of the race, then it's go-time."
Their 1-2 finish was part of Team USA's five-medal effort Saturday, which included two golds and three silvers. The Americans' overall medal count has reached 27 - 13 gold, nine silver and five bronze.
Crocker was 11-hundredths ahead of world record pace at the 50-meter mark and then built himself about a body-length lead as he headed into the finish. It was the third world record set by an American swimmer since the meet kicked off last Sunday.
"My time definitely surprised me, being able to go that fast," said Crocker, who also won silver in the 50m fly on Day 2. "I don't think it was a perfect race. I don't believe in a perfect race. I jammed my wall and turnover a little bit, so there are always things to improve."
While Crocker re-established himself as the world's top 100-meter butterflier Saturday, U.S. National Team rookie Kate Ziegler was steadily building a name for herself in the distance events. Ziegler was the top swimmer in the women's 800m free, her second win of the week after taking gold in the 1500m free on Tuesday.
Ziegler's strategy Saturday looked very similar to the one she used to win the 1500 on Day 3 - jump out in front from the start and stay there. Her time of 8:25.31 was more than two seconds faster than the rest of the field and made her the seventh-fastest American of all time.
"It is exciting having the gold medal with my best time," Ziegler said. "I can really say my confidence will make things work for me. When I'm in the water, I'm in a new world where I must get to the wall first. I'm really comfortable when I'm at full speed. This is why I think I've had success."
Americans winning silver medals Saturday, in addition to Phelps, included Margaret Hoelzer in the 200m back and the women's 400m medley relay team of Natalie Coughlin, Jessica Hardy, Rachel Komisarz and Amanda Weir.
Hoelzer finished the backstroke with a time of 2:09.94, about a second and a half behind Olympic gold medalist and former Auburn University teammate Kirsty Coventry.
"I am pretty happy with this medal," Hoelzer said. "I haven't been having the times I've been hoping for, and my training has not been going as well as I wanted. It is great to be back on the podium, and a good way to get me pumped up to be back in the water and train more."
The women's medley finished in 3:59.92, behind the mighty Australian powerhouse, which cruised to the win behind Leisel Jones' fastest breaststroke split of all time. That gives the U.S. women's relays a medal of every color, including a gold in the 800m free relay and a bronze in the 400m free relay earlier in this week.
"It was a competition between the two teams pushing each other, but they were faster," Coughlin said. "Other than that, I think we all swam great. We are very happy about the race."
In the other medal events of the evening, Coughlin finished sixth in the 50m butterfly with a time of 26.63, while Nick Brunelli finished sixth in the 50m free in 22.25.
Sprint fans must have really enjoyed the show in Saturday's semifinals, as each of the races were conducted at the 50-meter distance.
Jessica Hardy took the second seed heading into Sunday night's finals of the 50m breast, turning in a time of 31.10. Teammate Tara Kirk is the fourth seed with a time of 31.26.
"I have one more race to swim, and I am happy with my race tonight," Kirk said. "It was a lot faster than what I expected to be. I had a bad night last night, but I had the chance to rest. I had to swim two events this morning, and I got my stroke back and relaxed a little bit. I feel a lot better."
Kara Lynn Joyce was the top American in the women's 50m free, qualifying sixth for tomorrow night's finals in 25.14. Amanda Weir qualified 10th in 25.46.
"The race went pretty well for me," Joyce said. "It is my best time I think, so I am really happy about it. I hope to keep my energy for the finals. It hurt at about 35 meters, but I decided to do it tonight and go for it. There are some minor things I think I can improve on. There is always room for improvement in my start, my break out and my finish."
Aaron Peirsol, Crocker's teammate at UT, and Randall Bal, who finished 1-2 in the men's 100m back earlier this week, qualified 5th and 7th, respectively in the semifinals of the 50m back, turning in times of 25.55 and 25.60.
"It was a very quick race with very little room for error," Bal said. "I was hoping to go faster than that. I got tangled up with Thomas (Rupprath of Germany) in the water, on the catch. I was a little worried after touching. I wasn't sure who was going to make it back to the finals. I would like a medal so we will see what I can do. It is going to be an extremely fast race."