NEWS
07/23/2011 08:50 EDT | Updated 09/22/2011 05:12 EDT

Norway's Alexander Dale Oen leads qualifying at world swim championships

SHANGHAI - Norway's Alexander Dale Oen posted the fastest qualifying time in the 100-metre breaststroke at the world swimming championships on Sunday, then became teary-eyed talking about the twin tragedies in his country that killed at least 89 people.

Dale Oen led the way in 59.71 seconds, then pointed to the Norwegian flag on his cap as the camera caught him checking his time on the scoreboard. He was the silver medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

SHANGHAI - Norway's Alexander Dale Oen posted the fastest qualifying time in the 100-metre breaststroke at the world swimming championships on Sunday, then became teary-eyed talking about the twin tragedies in his country that killed at least 89 people.

Dale Oen led the way in 59.71 seconds, then pointed to the Norwegian flag on his cap as the camera caught him checking his time on the scoreboard. He was the silver medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Norwegian team has been watching television at its hotel to keep up with developments since Friday's bombing in Oslo and shootings on a nearby island.

"It's unbelievable," Dale Oen said. "We need to stay together now in Norway and we here just need to try to do the best we can."

Dale Oen's face reddened and he was on the verge of tears as he walked away from reporters.

Glenn Snyders of New Zealand qualified second in 59.94. Two-time Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan was third in 59.96. They were the only three men under 1 minute.

No one broke any records during the opening morning of qualifying in the indoor pool at the Oriental Sports Center, extending the drought since the high-tech bodysuits were banned 1 1/2 years ago.

Two years ago in Rome, 43 world records were set during the height of the high-tech suit frenzy.

"I think there'll be a couple," said Eamon Sullivan, who swam on Australia's 400 free relay. "The women are probably at more of an advantage with the upper body being covered but I don't think it's impossible."

World champion Cesar Cielo raced for the first time since being cleared to compete by the Court of Arbitration for Sport two days ago.

He qualified first in the 50 butterfly with a time of 23.26 seconds. Geoff Huegill, the 32-year-old Australian, was second to Cielo in 23.27.

"It's a little weird, to be honest," Cielo said. "I've had many, many emotions over the past month so it's kind of hard to just try to get everything together and just focus on swimming, but I have a new page in my life."

CAS upheld a decision by the Brazilian swimming federation to give Cielo only a warning after he tested positive for furosemide, a banned diuretic and masking agent, at a meet in Rio de Janeiro in May. Cielo said he consumed the drug in a contaminated batch of a food supplement he regularly used.

Also among the top 16 advancing to the semifinals were Roland Schoeman of South African, who was one of those not happy about the CAS ruling; Milorad Cavic of Serbia; and Fred Bousquet of France. American Cullen Jones finished 23rd, and didn't advance.

U.S. sprinter Jason Lezak echoed Schoeman a day earlier when he said that several swimmers weren't pleased about the ruling.

"I have nothing to say about that," Cielo said. "I don't know what else they want from me. My main goal here is just to swim fast. I don't have to make anybody else happy."

France qualified fastest in the men's 400 freestyle relay, putting them in position to take back the title won by the United States in Rome two years ago and at the 2008 Olympics.

The team of Alain Bernard, Jeremy Stravius, William Meynard and Fabien Gilot swam three minutes 12.09 seconds.

The U.S. squad of Garrett Weber-Gale, Ryan Lochte, Scot Robison and Dave Walters was second in 3:13.50. Michael Phelps was to be part of the team for the evening final.

"My first swim is always kind of like my worst swim, so I'm glad I got that out of my way," Lochte said. "I'm glad it's over so now I can start getting ready for the meet."

Russia and Italy tied for third and Australia qualified fifth.

"Tonight will be a cracker," Sullivan said. "Every team is bringing in new swimmers, faster swimmers so it's going to be electric."

In the women's 400 free relay, the U.S. team of Amanda Weir, Missy Franklin, Kara Lynn Joyce and Jessica Hardy was fastest in 3:35.64.

"Mission definitely accomplished," Joyce said.

The Netherlands was second in 3:35.76, followed by China and Germany.

Victoria Poon of Montreal, Erica Morningstar of Calgary, Chantal Van Landeghem of Winnipeg and Genevieve Saumur of Montreal qualified sixth.

Americans Dana Vollmer and Caitlin Leverenz were the fastest qualifiers in their events.

Vollmer swam 56.97 in the 100 butterfly, followed by Alicia Coutts of Australia in 57.49.

"I'm really excited about that," Vollmer said. "I know my American record is 56.94, but that's the fastest I've been since (the new) suits on and it felt great."

Katerine Savard of Quebec City qualified for the semifinals with the 12th fastest time of 58.59.

American Christine Magnuson, defending champion Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden and Aussie star Jess Schipper were among the top 16 qualifiers for the semifinals.

Leverenz led the way in the 200 individual medley, with a time of 2 minutes, 11.01 seconds in her first world meet. Emerging Spanish talent Mirela Belmonte Garcia was second in 2:11.38.

"I didn't expect that at all," Leverenz said. "It's my first time doing this, so I just took some deep breaths and went out there and had fun."

Victoria's Julia Wilkinson qualified 10th in 2:13.16 and Morningstar qualified 13th in 2:13.71.

Defending champion Ariana Kukors of the United States advanced to the semifinals in sixth place, while 2009 silver medallist Stephanie Rice of Australia was eighth. Rice finished second in her heat to Ye Shiwen of China, who was fourth-fastest overall.

"I definitely backed off at the end, I didn't really feel the need to race the Chinese girl on the way home," Rice said. "I knew that I was in sort of first or second position, that's what I wanted to be."

Sun Yang gave the Chinese fans reason to cheer with the fastest time in the 400 freestyle. Sun touched in 3:44.87, with American Peter Vanderkaay second in 3:45.02.

Defending champion Paul Biedermann of Germany was third in 3:45.18. Ous Mellouli of Tunisia, the 2009 silver medallist , was fourth.

"It's a completely different feeling. In 2009, I was the underdog. Nobody expected me," Biedermann said. "(Now) everybody is watching me to see what he is doing."

Victoria's Ryan Cochrane qualified eighth in 3:46.88.

Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea, the 2007 world champion, advanced to the final in seventh, something he failed to do in Rome.

In the women's 400 free, defending champion Federica Pellegrini of Italy had the fastest time of 4:04.76. France's Camille Muffat was second in 4:05.62.

Also making the final were Kylie Palmer of Australia in fifth and Rebecca Adlington of Britain. American Katie Hoff, competing in her first worlds since 2007, grabbed the eighth and last spot in 4:07.93.

"I have a weight off my shoulders now," Hoff said.