Kregor Zirk takes 200m freestyle bronze in Chicago
Estonian swimmer Kregor Zirk took bronze in the 200 meters freestyle event at the prestigious TYR Pro Swim Series, in Westmont, Illinois, on Thursday, part of his campaign to qualify for next year's Paris Olympic Games.
Zirk, 23, already posted a fastest time for the season so far in the qualifier for the TYR competition, of 1.48.33. He then shaved off more than half-a-second in the main event, putting in a time of 1.47.63, to bag bronze.
Just 0.18 seconds covered the top three swimmers, with Kieran Smith (U.S. 1:47.45) and Jorge Iga (Mexico, 1.47.60) finishing first and second.
Zirk said it had been: "A really great battle with the competition, and a good introduction to the tournament."
"I thought I had been a bit faster, but I'm still satisfied since this was my best time since the Tokyo Olympics. Going into the turnarounds still needs some work, however," he noted.
The Paris Olympics standard for automatic qualification is 1.46.26, 0.16 seconds slower than Zirk's own domestic record.
At the same time, Zirk said, he and coach Tom Rushton had focused more on the 200m butterfly, meaning the freestyle had been sidelined a little bit. This means that he will likely be able to assail his PB in the freestyle at this summer's World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, Zirk added.
In any case, the 200m butterfly qualifiers are on Friday evening, Estonian time, and the final in Westmont, in the Chicago metropolitan area, follows around 24 hours later.
Zirk's 200m PB is the 1.55.62 he put in at the World Championships last year, while the olympics "A" benchmark for automatic qualification stands at 1.55.78.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kristjan Kallaste