LONDON (Reuters) - Australia’s Emily Seebohm, still riding a wave of excitement after winning a relay gold medal on the opening day of the Olympic swimming competition, upstaged American teenager Missy Franklin on Sunday to top the qualifiers for the women’s 100 meters backstroke.
Seebohm came agonizingly close to breaking the world record when she won her heat in 58.23 seconds, just 0.11 outside the world record set by Britain’s Gemma Spofforth at the 2009 world championships in Rome.
Franklin, the rising star of the American women’s team, was second fastest overall in 59.37 with Australia’s Belinda Hocking third in 59.61. Spofforth finished 12th to safely advance to Sunday night’s semi-finals.
“You can’t take any chances, we are at the Olympics,” Franklin said. “Emily’s race was unbelievable but I have no control over her and what she does. The only thing I can control is myself.”
The final will be held on Monday with Seebohm looming as the favorite after saying she can swim even faster.
“It was not the hardest I can go, but you never know what everyone else will do,” she said.
“The time that I did was incredible. It just shows I wasn’t at my best (last year).”
Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Greg Stutchbury