BEIJING (Reuters) - Norway’s Alexander Dale Oen upstaged favorites Kosuke Kitajima and Brendan Hansen by smashing the Olympic record on his way to the men’s 100 meters breaststroke semi-finals on Saturday.
Oen’s time of 59.41 seconds made him the second fastest swimmer of all time in the event, ahead of Japan’s Olympic champion Kitajima.
“I’m happy, looks good,” said the Norwegian sounding distinctly underwhelmed by his performance. “A lot of these guys are going for that Olympic gold, I’m doing my own races, going for best times, improve the whole way.
“We’ll see if I make it to the final, all bit by bit.”
American Hansen, the world champion who set the world record of 59.13 in August 2006 and also had the Olympic record of 1:00.01 before Oen’s swim, qualified with the 10th fastest time of 1:00.36.
Kitajima, who beat his American rival to the gold in a controversial 2004 Olympic final, was second fastest in 59.52 and unconcerned.
“I went to the blocks with a good feeling, not much pressure, not thinking too much about it. The real competition starts tomorrow. I did what I planned and I’ll go faster tomorrow,” he said.
Hansen was also relaxed ahead of Sunday’s more important duel in the pool.
“I just wanted to get into the semis, I’ve been in training camp for four weeks so I might not be as sharp as I want to be to get into that racing mode,” he said.
“We swam late tonight, but at the same time I don’t want to be the centre of attention in lane four. I don’t swim well when I’m the centre of attention.”
Frenchman Hugues Duboscq was third fastest in 59.67.
(Writing by Alan Baldwin, additional reporting by Martin Petty, editing by Greg Stutchbury)