Hackett, Phelps stay on track for Olympic history

August 15th, 2008 - 10:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 15 (DPA) Grant Hackett of Australia Friday stayed on course to make history at the Beijing Olympics by qualifying for the men’s 1,500m freestyle final, while a US B team kept alive Michael Phelps’ dream of winning an unprecedented eight gold medals by making it into the final of the 4×100m medley relay. The Australian is attempting to become the first person to win the gruelling event three times in a row and he won the heat in Olympic record time.

His 14 minutes 38.92 seconds beat his old record established in Athens four years ago by 4.48 seconds. Two heats before him Canadian Ryan Cochrane had also broken the Athens mark with a time of 14:40.84 secs.

Two Chinese swimmers, Zhang Lin and Sun Yang also qualified for Sunday’s final.

In the women’s 50m freestyle Australian Cate Campbell led the swimmers into the semi-finals with a time of 24.20 secs, beating Marleen Veldhuis’ of the Netherlands by 0.18 secs.

Also comfortably through to the semi-finals were Germany’s Britta Steffen and Lisbeth Trickett, who in the morning session, had finished first and second respectively in the 100m freestyle.

Trickett said that she was very happy with her performance. “It’s obviously a very different format to have to have the finals in the morning and the heats at night.”

41-year-old American Dara Torres, who earlier in the competition became the oldest-ever swimming medallist when she won silver with the US 4×100m relay team, had the third-fastest time.

The 50m freestyle was the women’s wildcard event and a 12-year-old swimmer from Cameroon generated the most interest. Antoinette Guedia Mouafo from Douala managed a personal best in 33.59 secs and although she was 9.39 secs behind Campbell, she still managed to beat seven other swimmers.

“The Olympics are the most important competition and the best athletes take part. I am proud that I was one of them,” said the youngster, who trains three to five times a week in a hotel pool near her house.

In the women’s 4×100 medley relay, Australia qualified first for the final with a time of 3:57.94 secs, while Great Britain surprisingly had the second-fastest time, beating the fancied US team by one hundredth of a second in 3:59.14 secs.

The US team, swimming without several of their stars including Phelps, topped the men’s 4×100m medley relay qualifiers with a time of 3:32.75 secs, beating Australia by one hundredth of a second. Japan and Russia had the third and fourth-fastest time.

New Zealand was a surprise qualifier for the final with the sixth- fastest time.

The swimming competition continues Saturday in the Beijing Cube with the finals of the women’s 200m backstroke, the men’s 100m butterfly, the women’s 800m and the men’s 50m freestyle, as well as the semi-finals of the women’s 50m.

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