The stage is set for an epic women’s 100m backstroke final at the Pan Pacs in Tokyo after Australia’s Emily Seebohm bounced back from a troubled preparation with a blistering heat swim on day two.
The world 200m champion had been in and out of the Dolphins camp in the lead-up as she dealt dealing a very public break-up with teammate Mitch Larkin.
But she showed no signs of rust, breaking the championship record by clocking 58.79 seconds in her first swim of the four-day meet.
However, her record didn’t last long.
In the next heat, world champion Kylie Masse of Canada clocked a new mark of 58.29 – the ninth fastest time in history. Then world record holder Kathleen Baker of the United States won the final heat in 58.41.
When the dust settled, Masse was top qualifier for Friday’s final ahead of Baker and Seebohm to set up a titanic clash. Australia’s Kaylee McKeown also qualified seventh fastest.
“I didn’t really know where I was at. It hasn’t been my best prep. I have just come here and tried to tough it out racing the best in the world,” Seebohm said.
Backing up from Australia’s 4x100m mixed medley relay gold on Thursday, Larkin was sixth fastest for Friday’s 100m men’s backstroke final behind top qualifier, Olympic champ Ryan Murphy of the US.
“It’s been challenging but we had a fantastic camp up in Cairns, and my St Peters (club) squad and the whole Dolphins squad have been awesome,” Larkin said.
Meanwhile, world and Olympic champion Simone Manuel threw down the gauntlet to Cate Campbell ahead of Friday’s 100m freestyle final.
The American clocked 53.23 seconds to top qualifying, just 0.04 of a second faster than Campbell.
Campbell was still buzzing from her stunning 50.93 second freestyle anchor leg in the mixed medley relay win – the fastest women’s split in history.
“I had a little piece of chocolate cake last night as a reward,” Campbell laughed.
Australian young gun Shayna Jack also qualified as fifth fastest while Emma McKeon was sixth fastest.
Each nation can only enter two competitors in a final.
Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers bounced back from his 200m disappointment to be fourth fastest qualifier for Friday’s 100m final.
Zach Apple topped qualifying ahead of world champion and fellow American Caeleb Dressel.
Australia’s rising star Jack Cartwright was sixth fastest.
Chalmers was a relieved man after the Commonwealth champion sensationally failed to qualify for the 200m final on Thursday’s opening day.
“There’s always room to improve on things. But to be in the final is the most important thing,” he told Seven Network.
Australia’s Laura Taylor and David Morgan made their respective 200m butterfly finals.