Savard, womens relay set records; Cochrane advances

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BARCELONA – Two national records fell as eight Canadians advanced to semifinals or finals on the first day of pool competition at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

Ryan Cochrane and the women’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay will swim for medals tonight, while Katerine Savard, Noemie Thomas and Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson will look to advance through semifinals.

Canada’s fly girls got Sunday morning’s opening session started off right, as Savard and Thomas both qualified for tonight’s semifinals in 100-m butterfly.

Savard shaved .09 off her own Canadian record, touching the wall in 57.31, the third-fastest time in the heats.

“I’m really happy. I’ve done a first step to make the semi, so I’m excited to race tonight,” said the 20-year-old from Pont-Rouge, Que.. “To swim even faster and to make the finals is my goal.”

American Dana Vollmer was first at 57.22, which Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom was second in 57.28. Richmond, B.C.’s Thomas, 17, sits sixth heading into tonight with a heat time of 58.11.

“It’s so cool and both of us are swimming really fast so it’s nice,” Savard added.

Victoria’s Cochrane followed up by qualifying for finals in the 400-m freestyle, the first of three events for the two-time Olympic and four-time world championships medallist. Cochrane was second-fastest in the heats with a time of 3:45.74.

“You just don’t know what to expect in that event and I’ve been on the cusp of making finals (in the 400) so many times. I wanted to make sure to get a smooth, strong swim this morning and I was really satisfied,” Cochrane said.

The 24-year-old expects an even faster swim from tonight’s field, which includes top-ranked Sun Yang of China. The defending Olympic champion stopped the clock in 3:44.67.

“It’s stocked with anybody who has a medal chance and I think it just depends. Most of us were pretty smooth this morning, so I think you can expect it to be that much faster because of that,” Cochrane said.

Savard’s wasn’t the only Canadian record of the morning. The women’s 4×100-m freestyle relay team of Victoria Poon, Sandrine Mainville, Chantal van Landeghem and Samantha Cheverton was third fastest in the heats with a new national mark of 3:38.03.

“We’re all getting really pumped and in our first race (together) we get a new Canadian record. What more can you ask for? This is a great setting here and I’m just really pleased,” said veteran Victoria Poon of Montreal, who helped set the previous record of 3:38.14 at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif.

“We have half and half – 50 per cent veterans (Poon, 28, and Cheverton, 24) and 50 per cent newcomers (Mainville, 21, and van Landeghem, 19),” Poon said. “We have a good mix of two different ages and it makes it so much more fun.”

Ottawa’s Seltenreich-Hodgson also earned herself a second swim Sunday, qualifying for 200-m individual medley semis in 15th at 2:13.84 to keep the streak going in the third event of the morning.

Semifinals and finals get underway at noon ET. Canada has sent a 34-member team (17 men, 17 women) to the world championships. Action in the pool continues through Sunday at Palau Sant Jordi. For further information visit www.swimming.ca or www.bcn2013.com.

“That was a great morning for the Canadian swimming team. One of the things we’ve talked about all the way through is being ready for the heats. This morning, when you look at the overall performances of the team, they were ready. Ryan Cochrane, Katerine Savard and Noemie Thomas moving through in the top 8 this morning, then to cap the session off with the relay team to go 3:38-zero was a great swim,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson.

“There are several things that the team have been working on. The focus on relays right from when the team was announced. Being ready for morning heat swims is something that’s really really good. We’ve got to just keep our heads and keep doing what we’re doing. The team is swimming well, the athletes are in a great spot and the coaches are doing a great job with them.”

Coleman Allen finished 32nd in the men’s 50-m butterfly, touching the wall in 24.25 in his first world championships experience. His National Swim Centre – Vancouver teammate Savannah King went 4:12.47 in the women’s 400-m freestyle, good for 16th place overall. Richard Funk of Edmonton also made his worlds debut with a 22nd-place finish men’s 100-m breaststroke (1:00.89). Toronto native Alexa Komarnycky, who trains at the Victoria Academy of Swimming, finished 27th in the women’s 200-m IM at 2:15.08.

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