Rachel Bootsma expected to be nervous when she swam the preliminaries of the women’s 100-meter backstroke Sunday at the Olympics. She felt even more anxious than she thought she would, which slowed her down—but it didn’t stop her from making Sunday night’s semifinals.
Bootsma, of Eden Prairie, clocked the 11th-fastest qualifying time in the morning heats at the Aquatic Centre in Olympic Park. Her time of 1 minute, 00.03 seconds was well off her personal best of 59.10, set last month at the Olympic trials.
Bootsma finished 1.80 seconds behind top qualifier Emily Seebohm of Australia, who set an Olympic record with a time of 58.23.
Missy Franklin, who won the event at the trials, was second in 59.37. Great Britain also put two swimmers into the semifinals, which made for a lively atmosphere in the morning’s first event. World record holder Gemma Spofforth finished just behind Bootsma in 1:00.05, while Georgia Davies was sixth in 59.92. Other top qualifiers included Australia’s Belinda Hocking (third, 59.61), Japan’s Aya Terakawa (fourth, 59.82) and Russia’s Anastasia Zueva (fifth, 59.88).
The top 16 swimmers compete in Sunday’s semifinals, with the eight fastest moving on to the finals Monday.
The 100 meter semifinal heats are scheduled for 2:49 p.m. Twin Cities time.
“I was really nervous,’’ said Bootsma, 18, who made her Olympic debut. “I’m just really glad I made it into the semis. I wasn’t expecting to swim like that, but I guess I was nervous. I’ll take it for my first swim at the Olympics.
“At trials, in the finals, I went out too fast. I was a little nervous about doing that here, and I think I held back a little too much. Tonight, I’ll have another chance.’’
Bootsma swam in the fifth of six heats with Zueva and Spofforth, whose presence kept the crowd roaring throughout. At 50 meters, she touched the wall second after Canada’s Julia Wilkinson in a time of 29.10. She clocked a 30.93 over the second 50.
In the trials finals, Bootsma had swum 28.55 for the first 50 while locked in a tight race with Natalie Coughlin. All three of Bootsma’s times at the Olympic trials were under one minute: 59.69 (preliminaries), 59.10 (semifinals) and 59.49 (finals).
She hopes to return to that form in the semifinals Sunday night in London, now that she knows how it feels to walk out on the pool deck for an Olympic race.
“It was amazing,’’ she said. “It was nerve-wracking but really fun. Tonight, I’m just hoping to enjoy it more and have my nerves not be there as much.’’