SYDNEY, Australia — Fourteen hours after at least temporarily halting Thorpemania with a victory in the 200-meter freestyle, the Netherlands' Pieter van den Hoogenband revealed himself as the most dangerous challenger to Russian Alexander Popov's Olympic dominance in the 100 freestyle.
Van Den Hoogenband was the fastest qualifier today in the first round of the 100 at the Sydney Aquatic Center, finishing in 48.64 seconds.
Michael Klim, who set the world record for the distance in the opening leg Saturday of Australia's victorious 400 freestyle relay, was the second-fastest qualifier at 49.09.
Popov, two-time Olympic defending champion, qualified fourth in 49.29, just ahead of American Gary Hall Jr., in 49.32. Halls' teammate, Neil Walker, also qualified for the semifinals in 49.73.
Hall was making his first appearance in the pool since Thorpe beat him to the wall in the final leg of the 400 relay, handing the United States its first loss in the event at either the Olympics or World Championships.
"We were a little bit sad after the relay, but there wasn't anything to be sad about," Hall said. "We were 1 1/2 seconds under the world record, but Australia had the momentum after the first night. We came back the second night and we really just stopped them dead in the tracks. We're where we want to be."
Popov is also the two-time defending champion in the 50 freestyle, his better event at age 28. One month after the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, he was stabbed by a watermelon vendor in Moscow. But he has come back strong, breaking American Tom Jager's 10-year-old world record in the 50 in June.
Mysty Hyman of Phoenix was the fastest qualifier today in the 200 butterfly in 2:07.87, her best time by more than a second and a tenth of a second ahead of Australian world record-holder Susie O'Neill. Kaitlin Sandeno of Lake Forest advanced with the seventh-fastest time.
But Tom Wilkens of Middletown, N.J., who had the second-fastest time in the world this year in the 200 breaststroke, failed to qualify for the semifinals with a time of 2:16.30, about three seconds slower than his previous best.
Thorpe, the 17-year-old Australian who won two gold medals on the first night of swimming competition, was thwarted in an attempt for a third Monday, but he has another chance in the 800 freestyle relay. He rested during today's semifinals, but his Australian teammates won their heat in 7:14.27. The United States won the other heat in 7:17.22.