Phelps sets Olympic record in men's 400 IM qualifying
Brian Johns of Richmond, B.C., sets Canadian record to advance.
American Michael Phelps began his attack on the swimming record books Saturday, easily advancing to the final in the 400-metre individual medley at the National Aquatics Centre.
Phelps, 23, won the fourth and final heat in an Olympic-record time of 4:07:82, shaving 0.44 seconds off the mark he set in the event at the Athens Games in 2004.
"I am pretty surprised," he said. "I didn't think that I'd be first to get it, not until the finals."
Among the seven other swimmers qualifying for the final is Brian Johns of Richmond, B.C., who finished seventh in qualifying with a Canadian-record and personal-best time of 4:11.41.
Calgary's Curtis Myden set the previous Canadian record in the event at the 2000 Sydney Games in a bronze-medal performance.
Laszlo Cseh of Hungary, who earned a bronze medal in the event in Athens, posted the second-fastest time overall in 4:09.26. Italy's Luca Marin finished third in 4:10.22, while American Ryan Lochte was fourth in 4:10.33.
Phelps, who won gold in the 400 IM at the Athens Games, is attempting to break the record of seven total gold medals in swimming set by fellow American Mark Spitz at the 1972 Games in Munich.
The American won eight total medals in Athens, with six gold.
Phelps holds the world record in the 400 IM — one of six held by the native of Baltimore, Md. His time of 4:05.25 at the U.S. Olympic team trials in Omaha, Neb., eclipsed his previous mark set at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, by more than second.
In other swimming action on Saturday:
Men's 400-metre freestyle
American Larsen Jensen was the fastest qualifier for the men's 400-metre freestyle final, winning his heat in a time of 3:43.10.
China's Zhang Lin posted an impressive win over 2007 world champion Park Tae-hwan of Korea to win his heat and finish second overall in a time of 3:43.32.
Park's time was still good for third in 3:43.35, while Nikita Lobintsev was fourth in 3:43.45.
Grant Hackett, the 2005 world champion, will attempt to give Australia its third straight gold medal in the 400 free as he qualified for the final in fifth place with a time of 3:44.03. Ian Thorpe previously won gold in the event in 2000 and 2004, but has since retired.
Less than one second separated the top five positions, which sets the stage for an extremely competitive final.
"I knew it would be quick, but not quite that quick," Hackett said. "It's going to be interesting in the morning."
Victoria's Ryan Cochrane set Canadian record in the 400 free, but missed qualifying for the final by three one hundredths of a second, finishing ninth in a time of 3:44.85.
Women's 100-metre butterfly
The women's 100-metre butterfly was the next event to stage its qualifier, which brought the crowd to life in anticipation of the first two Chinese competitors of the day.
The first competitor from the host nation, Zhou Yafei, tied American Christine Magnuson for second-quickest qualifying time of 57.70 seconds and advanced to the semifinal round of 16 swimmers.
Australia's Jess Schipper posted the best qualifying time of 57.58 to move on.
"It's always great to get the first race over and done with," Schipper said. "But a few things went wrong there and still going in fastest qualifier for the semifinal, it's great to know that I have something to improve on."
The other Chinese swimmer in the women's 100 butterfly, Xu Yanwei, failed to qualify in 32nd place.
Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak, who earned the silver medal at the Athens Games, narrowly missed the final semifinal spot by four-hundredths of a second.
Women's 400-metre IM
It was an American one-two finish in qualifying for the women's 400-metre IM final as Elizabeth Beisel finished in a time of 4:34.55 — just 0.08 seconds faster than teammate Katie Hoff, the world record holder in the event.
Stephanie Rice of Australia, who owned the 400 IM world record earlier this year before Hoff took it back, clocked a time of 4:35.11 to finish in a tie for third with Alessia Filippi of Italy.
It was an impressive result for the 15-year-old Beisel, the youngest member of the U.S. contingent. But she did admit that it has led to some nervousness.
"I do get a little bit jittery thinking about it," Beisel said. "Tomorrow I'm sure I will really be on edge."
Hoff can undoubtedly relate to battling nerves. She held the distinction of being the youngest American Olympian at the 2004 Games, where she failed to advance past the preliminaries and ended up vomiting on the deck.
"It was definitely on my mind a little bit. It can't not be," said Hoff, who has qualified for five individual events at the Games. "To come back and swim a smart race, I'm really happy with it."
Tanya Hunks, of Branford, Ont., finished 20th in a time of 4:40.63 and didn't qualify for the final.
Men's 100-metre Breaststroke
Alexander Dale Oen of Norway also set an Olympic record on Saturday with a time of 59.41 in the 100-metre breaststroke preliminaries to advance to the semifinals.
Japan's Kosuke Kitajima was second in a time of 59.52, while Hugues Duboscq of France finished third in 59.67.
American Brendan Hansen advanced to the semis in 10th spot but didn't display the form that earned him the world record in the U.S. trials in 2004.
Hansen, who owns the fastest five times in the event, failed to break a minute with a time of 1:00.36, but put a positive spin on the result.
"I don't want to be in lane four [given to the fastest swimmer]," Hansen said. "I don't swim well when I'm the centre of attention."
Calgary's Mike Brown finished 20th in a time of 1:00.98 and did not advance to the semifinals.
With files from the Associated Press