A DAY after swimming the heats for Australia's gold medal winning women's 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay team Emily Seebohm has come within a whisker of a world record in the heats of the 100m backstroke on day two of competition at the London Olympic Games.
Swimming in the first of the seeded heats Seebohm, who was left shattered after finishing ninth in this event at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, clocked a sizzling 58.23 to record the third fastest swim of all time and quickest outside of the advantageous 'shiny suit' era of 2008 and 2009.
Only British swimmer Gemma Spofforth, who holds the world record at 58.12 and Russian Anastasia Zueva (58.18) have swum faster.
The Australian was more than a second ahead of teenage American prodigy Missy Franklin (59.37) and Aussie teammate Belinda Hocking (59.61) and said she was completely surprised by the time.
"My God," Seebohm said after the race. "I did look at the 50 split and saw that I was, I think, 0.1 under the world record and I was just like, 'don't get over your head, just keep going'."
"All I wanted to do this morning was to make it through and not miss out," she said.
Seebohm indicated she had been scared into a solid performance after some of the bigger names in the sport - namely Michael Phelps and Stephanie Rice - had almost missed progressing through the heats yesterday.
"I saw a few that were really close yesterday and I didn't want to be one of those people. I know what it's like to be in the semis and just miss out on the final and I want to just keep moving forward and maybe the world record in the final."
Hocking's swim also augers well for a two-pronged Australian assault on the medals and points towards some good form for her favoured 200m backstroke event later in the week.
Men's 200m freestyle
Australian dual Olympian Kenrick Monk qualified seventh and Thomas Fraser-Holmes, who was backing up from the 400m individual medley final, was 13th in the heats of the men's 200m freestyle.
Monk clocked a solid 1:46.94, his fastest time this year, to earn a spot in his first ever Olympic semi-final after spectacularly bombing out in the 200m freestyle heats four years ago in Beijing. Fraser-Holmes said he was tired following two hard 400m efforts yesterday but happy to have made it through to the next round with his time of 1:47.50.
Monk said he knew he would have to swim a time as fast or faster than the 1:47.16 he swam at the Australian Olympic Trials in March to make the semi-finals.
"I knew it was going to be close and it had to take a (one) 47 low or 46 to get into it," Monk said.
"I was just picturing that the whole way, I knew I was capable of myself to be able to go a 46 and then I finished off the race and it felt fantastic."
Joining the Aussie pair in the semi finals will be gold medallists from night one, China's Sun Yang (fastest this morning on 1:46.24) and American Ryan Lochte (second quickest on 1:46.45).
Women's 100m breaststroke
Leisel Jones launched her campaign to add to her tally of eight Olympic medals by qualifying fifth best in the women's 100m breaststroke heats.
Jones, who won this event in Beijing, finished second in her heat with a time of 1:06.98 - more than a second behind 15 year-old Lithuanian wonderkid and top qualifier Ruta Meilutyte (1:05.56).
Fellow Aussie Leiston Pickett fared well too in her Olympic debut, hitting the wall in 1:07.41 to move through to the semi-finals in 11th place.
Jones said she had taken the heats very seriously, saying the standard at this Olympic Games is too high to not give her best effort.
"I knew I couldn't afford to relax at all," Jones said. "I think most girls have gone pretty hard this morning, probably harder than most times.
"You just can't afford to at this level, you can't afford to go easy and miss the semi."
Jones also said she had been motivated by the negative media comments about her physical preparation for this meet and the wealth of public support for her that followed.
"It's the best thing that could have ever happened to me," Jones said of the criticism.
"I couldn't ask for anything more....I'm one of those people, you put me under pressure and I'll show you what I can do.
"I've had nothing but support and I think that has probably touched me the most and was probably what has made me so impressed, I've never had such support in my life and I'm so thankful."
American world champion and pre-race favourite Rebecca Soni looked comfortable as the second fastest this morning with a time of 1:05.75.
Men's 100m backstroke
Hayden Stoeckel, third in the men's 100m backstroke at the 2008 Olympic Games, recorded a 53.88 for ninth in the heats of the same event this morning behind USA giant Matt Grevers (52.92) and Chinese improver Cheng Feiyi (53.22).
Australian Olympic rookie Daniel Arnamnart also made it through to the semi-finals with a heat swim of 54.28, good enough for 15th.
Both Stoeckel and Arnamnart will likely need to improve on their times in the evening session semi-finals later if they are to qualify for the final on Day 3. They will also be a key element in Australia's 4x100m medley relay squad if there is to be any hope of challenging the might of the Americans in that event.
Women's 400m freestyle
Kylie Palmer and Bronte Barratt will turn their attention to the individual 200m freestyle and defending their Olympic 4x200m freestyle relay title after missing the final of the women's 400m freestyle.
Both Palmer (4:07.27) and Barratt (4:07.99) were below their best and finished 11th and 12th respectively in what was a rather pedestrian series of heats.
This year's world number one Camille Muffat of France posted the top time with a 4:03.29 effort ahead of American Allison Schmitt (4:03.31).
Barratt finished seventh in the 400m in Beijing but has battled shoulder problems in the years since, while Palmer underwent a shoulder reconstruction in late 2008 but bounced back to win world championships silver in the 200m last year.
Men's 4x100m freestyle relay
With big guns James Magnussen and James Roberts unleashed for the first time and joined by fellow Olympic debutants, Tommaso D'Orsogna and teenage sensation Cameron McEvoy, Australia has qualified fastest for tonight's final of the men's 4x100m freestyle relay.
The world champion Australians came from behind at every turn to win their heat and clock a 3:12.29 to best the USA (3:12.59) and Russia (3:12.77). France, runners-up behind Australia at last year's world championships, was fourth quickest in 3:13.38.
All the top nations are expected to make changes to their teams tonight including the Australian side that has the experience of Beijing Olympic bronze medallists in this event, Eamon Sullivan and Matt Targett, to call on.
Both Sullivan and Targett were also part of the victorious world championship team along with Magnussen and Matt Abood.
McEvoy was given the task of leading the Australians out this morning and posted a 48.94 lead off swim before Roberts split 48.22, D'Orsogna a brilliant 47.78 and world number one Magnussen an imposing 47.35.
After the race was pleased with the team's effort and his own contribution.
"I felt nice and relaxed coming down the first 50 and just let the crowd carry me home at the end," Magnussen said.
If the Australians can win tonight and emulate the country's women's team that claimed their 4x100m freestyle race yesterday it will be the first time in history that both genders have won that relay at the same Olympic Games.