Japan’s Ryosuke Irie threw down the gauntlet to American rivals Aaron Peirsol and Ryan Lochte when he qualified for the men’s 200 metres backstroke semifinals with the fastest time at the World Championships on Thursday.
Irie, who finished fourth in the 100m won by compatriot Junya Koga, claimed victory in his heat in one minute 55.2 seconds.
World record holder Peirsol set the second fastest time in winning his heat, while Olympic and 2007 world champion Lochte qualified third overall.
“He (Peirsol) is my rival and I will beat him,” Irie, who will not face competition from Koga in this event, said.
Peirsol, however, remains confident despite failing to make it past the semifinals of the 100m heats on Monday.
“I’m going to be gunning for it even more than usual,” the 100m Olympic champion said. “It was the first time I’ve watched a World Championship final from the stands,” he remarked about Monday.
Cancer survivor Eric Shanteau of the United States set the pace in the heats of the men’s 200 metres breaststroke with a time 2:08.55, the event’s fifth championship record of the day.
Australia’s Brenton Rickard, who won the men’s 100 metres breaststroke with a world record time on Monday, only managed to scrape into the semis as the 16th-fastest qualifier.